Snowpack is below average so far this year |

Snowpack is below average so far this year

by Linda Hiller

Although it’s hardly time to panic, area water experts are paying close attention to the weather.

Carson River Watermaster Julian Larrouy said Tuesday the precipitation this year is considerably lower than the final totals of the last four years.

“We were above average in our snowpack all four years, but right now we’re at 70-some percent of average,” he said.

As watermaster, Larrouy oversees irrigation for the Carson Valley. He said that while other irrigation systems have storage reservoirs upstream, the Valley irrigates and lives by what comes downstream from the mountain snowpack.

“For example, at Lahontan, they are up to capacity already, so whatever happens from now on won’t really matter,” he said. “In this Valley, we’re dependent on what comes down from the mountains, so we’re watching.”

Larrouy said farmers and ranchers will begin to use irrigation water from the river in mid-March.

“Right now there may be some sprinkling of garlic fields from wells, but that’s about it,” he said.

Larrouy said he will wait until March before getting too nervous about a trend towards another drought, which plagued Northern Nevada less than a decade ago.

“It’s not all doom and gloom yet. We still have February and March, and we often get lots of precipitation during those months,” he said.

n River repairs made easier. Jane Schmidt, resource specialist with the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service, said water experts in her office have been wondering about the recent dry weather.

“We were just talking about this,” she said. “We think it’s too early to start wringing our hands yet, though, because the biggest amount of snowfall we usually get is between January and March.”

Schmidt said the total precipitation so far this year is at 66 percent of average, compared to 60 percent this time in 1998 and 232 percent in 1997, the year of the New Year’s flood.

Racing against time, many of the post-flood emergency watershed protection river repair projects are near completion, she said.

“Work on the Settelmeyer’s (south) project is under way, and should be done in two weeks,” she said. “They’ve already put in one layer of rock and are planting willows, and then 1,700 tons of rock need to be placed.”

Schmidt said repairs on the stretch of the Carson River between Highway 88 and Muller Lane is completed, and the contractor is awaiting final payment.

“Crockett Enterprises did a wonderful job on that one,” she said. “It just needs to be reseeded when the ground thaws, and then we’ll go in and plant some cottonwood trees.”

The current lower precipitation has actually facilitated at least one of the EWP repair efforts, Schmidt said.

“One of the projects – the two-mile stretch between the Lutheran Bridge and Highway 88 – requires dewatering anyway, so the equipment can get in there and work,” she said. “The race is on with this one to get it accomplished before the river gets too high.”

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