SWEET HOME — An alarming lack of snowpack in the Cascades could significantly affect this summer’s wildfire season, but at this point, officials with the Army Corps of Engineers aren’t worried about filling Foster and Green Peter reservoirs in time for summer recreation.
At least not yet, anyway, even though water levels are 24 percent of normal, according to Corps spokesman Scott Clemans.
“The water levels in the Willamette Valley reservoirs are pretty much rain-driven,” Clemans said. “We rely a lot less on snow melt than we do the rainfall between February through April. Snow melt contributes a bit, but it actually plays out more in keeping water flow in the rivers going in the summer.”
So far this year, the mid-valley has received 8.86 inches of rain, which is 3.73 inches below the annual average of 12.59 percent.
Clemans said that basin-wide, the reservoirs are about 23 percent full.
“But, a couple good rains could make up for that," he said. "At some of our smaller reservoirs, it may take only one good rain, but we are definitely behind."
Nevertheless, Clemans said it’s far too early in the season to panic.
“It seems like the last few springs we’ve been in a similar spot,” Clemans said. “It looks like we’re way behind and then it rains for a week and we fill up.”
But he added that the Corps is holding as much water back as possible.
“We are releasing the absolute minimum flow into the rivers as required to meet our various missions,” Clemans said. “We’re trying to keep every drop Mother Nature gives us.”
Linn County Parks Director Brian Carroll agrees with Clemans.
“I never thought I’d say this, but pray for rain,” Carroll said. “The dry spring has been good for camping, but there’s going to soon come a time when we need water in the reservoirs.”
As of mid-February, 44 of the state’s 110 snow reporting stations were at record or near-record lows.
As of Thursday, snowpack at Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon was about 80 percent below average. Snowpack at the lodge is usually 110 inches at this time of year. This year, though, it's at 28 inches.