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Late-season snowfall significantly improves C.O. water supply conditions, but drought still lingers

(Update: Adding video, comments from Deschutes Basin watermaster)

Ten Deschutes Forest campgrounds opened Friday; nearly a dozen not ready yet

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The late snowfall into the spring brought its pluses and minuses to the High Desert. It eased our drought conditions, but also have delayed the seasonal opening of several campgrounds and higher-elevation fishing spots. 

 Deschutes Basin Watermaster Jeremy Giffin said Friday the recent snowfall has definitely helped ease the water supply outlook, but it's still not enough to end the drought, now in its third year. 

 Giffin explained how the region is faring.

"The basin water conditions are in much better shape than they were two or three months ago," he said.

The recent late snowfall in the Cascades, which also kept happening at some lower elevations, has helped to fill reservoirs in the Deschutes and Crooked River Basin. 

While the conditions are improving for our reservoirs, it's causing a delay on campground openings for ones at higher elevations that are still under snow. 

The Deschutes National Forest posted an updated list on Facebook Friday, saying there are still 11 campgrounds facing delays. The campground concessionaire is working to get the facilities up and running for people to enjoy as soon as possible.

Among campgrounds opening Friday for first-come first-serve campers: Pringle Falls, Big River and Pioneer Ford. Fans of Lava Lake, Rock Creek and Sheep Bridge Campgrounds must wait.

Giffin said the Prineville Reservoir was seeing historically low levels just two months ago. 

According to the US Bureau of Reclamation, it's now 87% full.  

 "The last 10 days, we've had it in flood control operations actually releasing over 2000 cubic feet per second," Giffin said. "In the last month, we've stored over 100,000 acre feet at Prineville Reservoir."

But one good (if late) winter of snowfall does not fully relieve years of drought.

The latest Oregon Drought Monitor map shows all of Crook County and parts of Deschutes and Jefferson remain in extreme drought, with the rest in moderate to severe drought.

Giffin expects some drought conditions to continue into the summer.

 "However, the last couple of months of precipitation has improved the conditions tremendously," Giffin added, "For example, Wickiup Reservoir is 25,000 acre feet higher than it was at this time last year."

Here is the forest's list of campsites opening Friday and those with delayed openings::

Article Topic Follows: Environment

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Kelsey McGee

Kelsey McGee is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Kelsey here.


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