Friday, 03 February 2023

National Forest snowpack dwindles

MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – The Mendocino National Forest's final snow survey of the season showed still more low readings during what forest officials say has been one of the driest years on record.


Forest staffers Jordan Saylor and Conroy Colman conducted the recent snow measurements at Anthony Peak, at an elevation of 6,200 feet, according to a report from Phebe Brown, the forest's spokesperson.


Forest Hydrologist Bob Faust says Anthony Peak is located in the middle of the forest, between the Sacramento and Eel River watersheds.


The measurements conducted by Saylor and Colman found snow depth and water content to be 60 percent below average for this time of year, Brown reported.


One of the samples at the snow course was bare dirt, although the other nine sites were covered, Brown said.


The average snow depth was 23 inches, or 43 percent of average, said Brown. The water content was 9.4 inches – which amounts to 41 percent of average.


A snow survey of the area conducted March 30 found the snowpack at 26 inches (40 percent of average) and 12 inches of water (43 percent of average).


“This is the lowest water content in 15 years,” said Faust.


Other recent low snow years were 1981, 1986 and 1990, he said.


The snowpack statewide has been down significantly this year.


The Department of Water Resources reported Tuesday that the state snowpack was at an average of 25 percent of normal. The more severe weather conditions can be attributed to climate change and global warming, Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow said last week.


Brown reported that the National Forest has been measuring winter snow depths and moisture

content since 1944 and the averages are calculated based on all those years. Precipitation from Anthony Peak drains down the Grindstone watershed, into Stony Creek and the Black Butte Reservoir, ending up in the Sacramento River, she added.


With the irrigation season on and with low inflow, reservoir storage dropped dramatically, Faust said.


“Anyone driving by Lake Mendocino on Highway 20 can see a lot of shoreline,” said Faust. “This lake is 82 percent of average storage."


Faust compared that to other Northern California reservoirs, including Shasta Lake, which is at 99-percent storage; Lake Oroville, 105 percent; and Black Butte Lake, 68 percent.


Besides California, the states of Arizona, Nevada and Utah are also dry, Faust said.


Good snowpack areas, he added, can be found in Colorado, Washington, Idaho and Montana.


For the most part, Lake County is not dependent on snowpack, according to Water Resources Division officials, but rather on precipitation and creek flow into the lake.


Local creeks remain at extremely low levels according to Department of Water Resources stream gages.


On Tuesday, Kelsey Creek was at 9.9 cubic feet per second (cfs), with the creek's median level at 25; the north fork of Cache Creek measured 20 cfs, with a median of 35; Cache Creek at Lower Lake was at 142 cfs, with a median of 308; and Putah Creek was at 19 cfs, with a median of 74.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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