Warm winter causing some concern for low reservoir levels

Ashland, Or.– Temperatures are going up and snow pack is melting.

Water reservoir levels in Jackson County are lower than usual right now as temperatures reached record highs for this time of year. This is leading some residents and officials to worry a bit about what could happen in the following months.

“We’ve had mild winters, it just seems like they’re becoming milder more often,” said Matt Moore, a local Ashland resident.

Moore says he’s lived in Ashland for decades. He remembers back in the 80’s when Mt. Ashland was full of snow well into April.

“When I was in high school, I used to work up [Mt. Ashland]. You know, I never had a year like this.”

According to Talent Irrigation District, the lack of snow is a bit concerning.

“It’s running low, there’s no question about it, the lack of snow and precipitation,” said General Manager Jim Pendleton. “I mean at this point I’d be happy for even rain. We’ve got very limited snow pack up there.”

Talent Irrigation District oversees the Emigrant, Howard Prairie and Hyatt Lake reservoirs, which are fed by melting snow packs year around. The company helps maintain the lakes, ensuring that there is enough water to be used throughout the year for various services.

“The primary purpose for each of those is irrigation. They all have multiple uses,” said Pendleton. “They’re allowed for power generation, they’re allowed for flood control operations. They’re allowed for some recreation.”

Right now, the water level of Emigrant Lake is at about 17,000 acre feet or 43 percent capacity, according to data collected by TID. Pendleton says he would feel much more comfortable about moving into summer if the water level reaches 30,000 acre feet or 75 percent capacity before the spring rains stop.

Pendleton says that Howard Prairie Lake’s water levels are looking pretty good though due to last year’s big winter but with snow pack levels around the 30-40 percent range, that surplus could be tough to hold onto through the summer.

According to John Vial, director of Jackson County Roads and Parks, this year seems a bit precarious but it’s nothing drastic at this point.

“Lake levels are down and are we a little concerned about that?” said Vial, “Of course we’re a little concerned about it but we’re not panicking. There’s still a lot of time for a wet spring.”

Vial says it’s still early and any rain the county gets could improve the situation. Pendleton agrees and hopes a wet spring is on it’s way.

“I prefer a snow pack but you know I will take anything that’s wet right now. I’ll take it.”


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