Snowpack indicates dry summer

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Snowpack levels are slightly higher than at this time last year, but still nowhere near the 30-year average, according to figures released Tuesday by the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Steamboat Springs.

"It's better than last year but it's still not good," said Soil Conservation Technician Vance Fulton, who participated in the snow survey of 12 sites in the Yampa River Basin Feb. 1.

The water content in the snow, which has fallen to below-average levels, is at 78 percent of average.

"It's going to take a lot to even get to average," Fulton said. "It could happen but it's unlikely."

Fulton said snowpack has been below average four out of the last five years.

John Balliette, agriculture agent at the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office in Craig, said if moisture levels do not increase, the ongoing drought will impact farmers and ranchers again this summer.

He said 50 to 75 percent of cattle had been liquidated in 2002 because of the conditions.

"Some will have to liquidate even more numbers this year," he said. "It's also going to be tough on dry land crops."

All sites where samples were taken in the recent survey drain into the Yampa River.

The basin-wide average snow depth was 38 inches. Last year, the average snow depth was 35 inches.

The water content in that snow is 10 inches this year compared to nine inches at the same time last year.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service conducts a survey at the end of each month during the winter and releases its results at the beginning of the next month.

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.

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