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Western Oregon snowpack slightly below normal

COURTESY PHOTO: TRACY ROBILLARD/NRCS - Hydrologists Julie Koeberle and Amy Burke measured snowpack on Mount Hood last year as part of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service project. This year's snowpack is near normal in Western Oregon, and above normal in Eastern Oregon.Oregon’s snowpack — an indicator of how much water we might have during the dry summer months — is holding stead at near normal or above-normal levels, according to the March Water Supply Outlook Report by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Conservation service officials said the snowpack continues to surpass last year’s peak levels. The statewide average snowpack is 92 percent of normal, according to the service.

In Eastern Oregon, above-normal precipitation has left it with the highest snowpack levels. Western Oregon’s snowpack is the lowest in the state in the Mount Hood and Willamette basins, at about 77 percent and 76 percent of normal.

“Temperature will be the key indicator for March snowpack development and retention, since warmer conditions have already resulted in low and mid-elevation snowmelt run-off in several locations,” said Scott Oviatt, NRCS Oregon snow survey supervisor. “Eastern Oregon continues to see the best conditions in the state, due to cooler mountain temperatures.”

According to the March report, streamflow forecasts call for slightly-below-average to slightly-above-average volumes for the summer water supply season.

The NRCS Snow Survey is the federal program that measures snow and provides streamflow forecasts and snowpack data across the West. In Oregon, snow measurements are collected from 81 sites, 42 manually measured snow courses and 26 aerial markers.

Water and snowpack data for all Oregon sites are available online at www.or.nrcs.usda.gov/snow .