From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 5, Number 2 - April 7, 2005
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Drought forecast improving

Wyoming Climatologist Jan Curtis provided the Green River Basin Advisory Group with an update on the current drought situation at the group’s meeting in Marbleton Tuesday.

Curtis explained that with 110 years worth of data in the state, it’s been estimated that on average, the state experiences13 inches in precipitation annually.

The current drought started five years ago, Curtis explained, and while things are slowly changing for the better, the drought still persists. Curtis noted that 2002 in Wyoming was drier than the Dust Bowl-era drought.

Since Wyoming has experienced 75 percent of normal precipitation in the last five years, that means that the state has actually lost over one year of precipitation during that time period.

The Upper Green River Basin is considered to be in a moderate drought situation at this time, Curtis said. Statewide, southwestern Wyoming is in the wetter portion of the state, with conditions deteriorating to the northeast.

Forecasts call for below-normal temperatures and above-normal precipitation for the summer months, a situation Curtis called “encouraging.”

Curtis prepared a biomass forecast for non-irrigated grasslands of Wyoming, providing his forecast for the availability of forage based on the percentage of long-term average. The Wind River Mountains are forecast at 100 percent, while most of the remainder of the county is forecast at 75 percent. Northern Lincoln County is at 50 percent. Most of Fremont County is forecast at 50 percent below normal, as is most of eastern Wyoming.

Curtis noted that April is often the critical time period for spring moisture.

Boulder irrigator Randy Bolgiano questioned why anecdotal information isn’t used in making the forage forecasts, noting that conditions in his area one setting the stage for “one of the best seasons in some time.” Bolgiano cited soil moisture and reservoir storage levels in his area.

Big Piney rancher Dan Budd pointed out how great the difference can be across the valley, noting that he’s anticipating the entire Wyoming Range from Horse Creek south will be under regulation by the first of June, “unless we see a tremendous amount of moisture.”

John Zebre gave an update on the activities of the Upper Green River Joint Powers Water Board. The board is involved with three major water study projects at this time. One is a study of the Lake Naughton reservoir in Lincoln County.

A second project involves a study of Boulder Lake above Boulder to rehabilitate the vandalized outlet while examining the possibility of enlarging the lake, to benefit East Fork irrigators. Zebre said that if the lake was enlarged, in all likelihood, issues will be raised about the inundation of lands within the Bridger Wilderness area. He said if that happens, undoubtedly environmental compliance documents would have to be written, possibly posing an economic obstacle that would be too much to overcome.

A third project is the study of Upper Green River storage sites. Zebre said the study will examine reservoir sites on the main stem of the Green River in Wyoming.

Zebre said that the study will look at possible reservoir sites, “without regard to issues of permitability.”

Zebre said the board wanted the Wyoming Water Development Commission and its staff to identify the best reservoir sites in the basin and didn’t want the main stem excluded from the study.

“We’ll worry about the conclusions of the study later on,” Zebre said.

The scope of the study has expanded, Zebre said, to include high altitude, off-channel, off-mainstem sites in the upper basin.

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