Utah Set for Good Spring Runoff

Utah Set for Good Spring Runoff

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- If the winter continues as wet as it's been so far, the runoff in the spring should begin to make up for the last five years of drought.

As of Wednesday, the water content of Utah's snowpacks averaged 123 percent of normal.

Just the first of the year, the Weber-Ogden rivers basin jumped from 116 percent to 135 percent of the normal snow cover. The Provo River-Utah Lake-Jordan River basin went from 121 percent to 136 percent, and the Tooele Valley-Vernon Creek watershed rose from 149 percent to 198 percent of normal.

A storm system hit on Wednesday and another is expected to brush by on Saturday.

"As far as our snowpack is concerned, we are right where we want to be this time of year," said Randy Julander, snow survey supervisor for the U.S. National Resource Conservation Service in Salt Lake City. "Snowpacks across the state are all above to well-above average in some areas, with the exception of the Escalante."

In the Escalante River basin, the snowpack is 89 percent.

Julander said 45 percent of the winter precipitation season is over.

If snowstorms could continue to plow through Utah, the snowpack just before the spring runoff could be as high as 130 percent or 150 percent of average.

"That would be fantastic," he said, but added, "It's equally likely the whole thing could go dry on us, and we could end up below normal."

Still, snow specialists are "very optimistic," Julander added. "We like where we're at. We're going into halftime with a comfortable lead."

A remaining concern is the exceptionally dry soil in parts of the state, which means much of the runoff in those areas will just soak into the ground.

"That'll take some of the snowpack, there's no doubt about that," Julander said. But with a comfortable snowpack, Utah should be able to overcome the soil moisture needs and still have a good runoff.

A big concern is that reservoir storage is extremely low. Bear Lake is at only 2 percent of capacity, "and that's just really, really ugly," he said.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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