Snow pack

Water flows down Garden Creek near the town of Robin, Idaho, this winter. Through Jan. 1, several Idaho basins had well below normal mountain snowpack, including the Portneuf Valley, where the mountains were 60 to 70 percent of normal.

BOISE — Idaho’s snowpack status is still in the wait-and-see mode, experts said Friday.

On Friday morning, the first Idaho Department of Water Resources’ Water Supply Committee meeting of 2020 had was attended by employees from the state water resources department, Idaho Power, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Army Corps of Engineers, who discussed where Idaho’s water systems currently sit after a dry December.

“It’s really quite early, so you can’t glean much for water supply,” Danny Tappa, USDA supervisory hydrologist and data collection officer, said at the meeting, held at the University of Idaho’s Idaho Water Center in Boise.

After record-low snowfall throughout the Pacific Northwest in November, Tappa said this weekend’s coming storms would impact the amount of snowpack and precipitation in Idaho’s watersheds.

In November, there was record-low or record-low precipitation according to SNOTEL data throughout the Pacific Northwest, Tappa said. That stands for SNOw TELemetry, a data-collection network that tracks snow depth, precipitation and temperature.

“And nearly every SNOTEL site in Idaho set a new record for lack of precipitation in November north of Boise,” he said.

But since Jan. 1, there has been a definite change for the better. Tappa said that the Clearwater Basin, Idaho Panhandle and the west-central and upper Snake River basins have had positive additions over the past couple of weeks.

Closer to Boise, the Boise River reservoir system (which includes Arrowrock Reservoir, Lucky Peak Lake and Anderson Ranch Reservoir) is expected to end up with 72% of its average water level by the end of the season, according to Bureau of Reclamation Hydrologist Ryan Hedrick.

“We’re still in the band of anything can happen at this one,” Hedrick said.

That level of uncertainty is familiar to everyone attempting to forecast the future.

“We don’t have any business forecasting right now,” Tappa said.

According to a U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday, most of Idaho is listed as “abnormally dry” and some sections, including most of Ada County, were experiencing moderate drought as of Tuesday.

If below-average snowfall continues to plague Idaho, other parts of the state could see a resurgence of a drought later this year, Idaho Department of Water Resources Hydrologist David Hoekema.

The next monthly meeting to discuss an update on the Idaho snowpack is set for 9 a.m. Friday, Feb. 14, at the Idaho Water Center in Boise. The meeting is open to the public.