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High Desert sees lowest snowpack in over 20 years


The lack of snow and the warm temperatures are a big concern when it comes to irrigation water in the summer.

“We have a very dismal snowpack,” Jeremy Giffin, Deschutes Basin watermaster, said Wednesday. “This is by far the lowest snowpack we’ve had in over 20 years.”

Most of Oregon is at least 50 percent below its average snowpack level, while the Deschutes River basin has just 19 percent of the average.

“We’re roughly 50 days until the beginning of the 2015 irrigation season,” Giffin said. “However, last year was below-average snowpack, and this year was a much lower than average snowpack. If that’s followed by another below-average snowpack, it could be devastating.”

Central Oregon is so far behind typical snow levels, experts think even a solid snowstorm will not bring us back to normal — and we’re just 50 days away from the beginning of the irrigation season.

“My biggest concern would be the reservoirs. However, that is the one bright spot, they are near capacity,” Giffin said.

Giffin said if we have another winter with lower than average snowpack, some irrigation water might have to be shut off in 2016.

The lack of snow is at least good news for Oregon Department of Transportation crews.

“When it’s warm like this, what we get done is stuff that we would actually put off until the summer,” said Peter Murphy, the agency’s Central Oregon public information officer.

Since ODOT does not have to worry about deicing roads or snow removal, its workers have time to catch up on highway safety maintenance.

“Some of it is small stuff that we do, some of it is bigger stuff. But it’s all necessary to keep the highways safe,” Murphy said.

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