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Monday, October 26, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Idaho’s snowpack specialist retires after 29 years

Ron Abramovich is retiring as a water supply specialist at Idaho’s Natural Resource Conservation Service after 29 years. (Idaho Press)
Ron Abramovich is retiring as a water supply specialist at Idaho’s Natural Resource Conservation Service after 29 years. (Idaho Press)
By Xavier Ward Idaho Press

NAMPA, Idaho – Spending time outdoors is a hobby for many Idahoans, but for Ron Abramovich, it’s been a way of life.

Abramovich is retiring from his post as a water supply specialist at the Natural Resources Conservation Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, after 29 years as the go-to water supply expert.

He often gave reports to groups around Idaho ranging from canal and ditch companies to outfitters and guides, letting them know what the outlook was for water supply. He gave roughly 30 presentations, all of which relied on the information he conveyed to plan accordingly for whatever the water supply was.

It wasn’t all work and no play; Abramovich used his hobbies to get to these sites.

“That’s what kind of kept me going. I’m a skier and a rafter,” Abramovich told the Idaho Press . “Who would have thought I would move here and stay here for 29 years doing the same thing?”

Abramovich spent much of the past 29 years heading out to SNOTEL sites, a method that automatically captures snowpack levels. His last trip was Tuesday to the Mores Creek Summit near Idaho City.

For Abramovich, the line between work and play was often blurred. Some of the sites required backcountry skiing to access. He also remembered heading to a site in Wyoming that was 130 miles round trip, all on snowmobiles.

“We started snowmobiling from Alpine, Wyoming, from the top of Palisades Reservoir. It was a 65-mile trip one way,” he said.

Other times, he found himself taking recreational trips down the Salmon River, but he was still observing the snowmelt and river levels.

“That’s what I learned on one of my first trips down the Middle Fork on the main Salmon River,” he said. “It was Memorial Day weekend back in 1998. … You see the snow melting and the rivers rising, and I learned so much about the hydrology and what’s happening when you’re on a river trip like that.”

Ultimately, all the time spent outside was a chance to learn about Idaho’s rich and diverse landscape. Whether it was for work or just for fun, Abramovich found himself learning more about the environment and enjoying himself at the same time.

“I was on vacation, I was on my own time, but I thought, ‘Well, I should be getting paid for this,’ because this is really what you do, how you learn the hydrology. You get out there in the field and you see what’s happening during a critical snowmelt time,” he said.

Over the years, Abramovich said he’s taken to having a positive outlook even in years of drought or flood. Still, as time progressed in his nearly three decades, he’s noticed a trend of increasing climate variability in Idaho.

“You can’t always rely on normal precipitation falling in the winter time, and you can’t always rely on normal precip in the spring,” he said. “We’ll take what we can get when we can get it.”

Abramovich’s mantra is to enjoy what you can when you can, because nothing is set in stone when it comes to the weather.

“It’s critical here,” he said. “So much of our life and our livelihood depend on our snowpack.”

If you ask his colleagues, Abramovich’s impact cannot be overstated.

“He’s got huge credibility with everyone because he pays attention to the science of everything,” said Steve Stuebner, an outdoor expert and communications professional who worked with Abramovich for years. “I think he pays a lot of attention to the science of the job and that science is really important for a multitude of industries.”

In Stuebner’s experience, Abramovich was just a guy who loved his job because it enabled him to spend time outdoors – where he wanted to be anyway.

“To me it’s one of the plum jobs in the state of Idaho for anyone who loves the outdoors,” he said. “It’ll definitely be big shoes to fill, and I think he was always humble about what he was doing and understood the value of it.”

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