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Snow report "promising"

Snow readings taken from the watershed of Ochoco Reservoir last week show a "pretty promising" amount of water in the high country as the area's reservoirs begin to fill
The season's first report from Marks Creek shows promise; the water content in the nearly two feet of snow at the test site is better than twice the average amount.
   A number of times each winter measurements are taken by the Ochoco Irrigation District at four locations in the Ochoco Mountains. These sites, Marks Creek, Derr Creek and Ochoco Meadows near Walton Lake, are in the watershed that feeds Ochoco Reservoir. The measurements, along with readings from automatic stations that record moisture and other information, are used to determine how water from the reservoir will be allocated during the next irrigation season. The outlook from last week's readings at Marks Creek looks good.
   Between Christmas and New Year's Eve, Russell Rhoden, manager of OID, traveled to Marks Creek and took the season's first measurements. With 20 inches of snow on the ground, Rhoden said he measured 5.7 inches of water content. That, according to Ted Day of the US Bureau of Reclamation, is well above average.
   Looking through the agency's archives, Day said the average is for two inches of water content, and three inches is "well above" average.
   Rhoden explained that about 29 percent of the snow pack from the December reading is water and he believes later readings will go up some in density. "We definitely like what we're seeing," he said. "One thing about it, we have room for a lot of water in both reservoirs." Both Ochoco Reservoir and the Prineville Reservoir have begun filling.
   Stan Fox, a snow hydrologist with the US Natural Resources Conservation Services, said he has been getting satellite reports from various automatic reporting stations around the state. Fox said he has been getting pretty good numbers, As of the end of December, the water content of the snowpack statewide is about 155 percent of normal for this time of year. Last year at this time, it measured about 79 percent of normal.
   The automatic monitors show Derr Creek to be 149 percent above normal and Ochoco Meadows, near Walton Lake at 159 percent. Fox's readings for the Deschutes and Crooked River basin was 83 percent of normal last year, and 150 percent so far this year.
   Fox is frequently asked about the drought that Oregon and other parts of the Pacific Northwest has suffered under. Are we still in drought conditions, people ask and his answer is always on the conservative side. "Yes, we're still in a drought. But we've got a great start in recovering from it."
   Marks Creek was the first and only site measured by Rhoden and the irrigation district crews in December. Readings will next be taken at the other sites late in January, February and March.