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Low Bear Lake Levels Causing Problems for Farmers

Low Bear Lake Levels Causing Problems for Farmers

Posted - Apr. 25, 2004 at 7:01 p.m.



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John Hollenhorst reporting Farmers in Northern Utah and Southeastern Idaho are preparing for the worst water year any of them can remember.

With Bear Lake nearly at record lows, farmers are bracing for losses that will likely reach into the millions of dollars.

Right now the flow of the Bear River looks pretty good. But this is just snowmelt. And in the next few weeks that will peeter out.

For generations farmers in this area have relied on extra water stored in Bear Lake.

But today Bear Lake is exceptionally low. Almost as bad as the historic low in 1935.

They're scrambling to keep the boat launch ramp in business, and the vast beaches are bad news for farmers.

Downstream on the Bear River, farmers need Bear Lake Water to survive.

Last year, they had to get by on just three fourths of their usual allocation. This year it's drastically worse. They'll get only about one third of their usual irrigation water.

Connely Baldwin, Utah Power Hydrologist: "Very bad. This is the worst drought that the Bear River watershed has had in recorded history. "The snowpack was near normal for the year for most of the year until March when it got really warm and melted a lot of our snowpack and now we're about 50 percent of normal."

Farmers are using a variety of strategies to survive. Some fields will remain unplanted. In some cases the farmers will switch crops, growing things that need less water later in the year.

And some farmer ranchers are already planning to move cows out of state.

All in all this is expected to be a year that will test the farmers, more than any drought in the last three or four generations.

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