Winter storm gives southern Idaho snow pack levels a boost

CALDWELL, Idaho (KBOI) - The recent winter storm is giving southern Idaho snow pack levels a much needed boost.

There has been a lot of concern that another dry winter will lead to drought issues this summer.

As of midnight on Saturday, the Bureau of Reclamation measured snow pack levels in the Payette River System, which includes the Cascade and Deadwood reservoirs, at 59% of capacity. Levels in the Boise River System, which is made up of Lucky Peak, Arrow Rock and Anderson Ranch reservoirs, is at just 42% of capacity.

Last year, data from the Bureau of Reclamation shows reservoir storage levels were were anywhere from 10-15% higher than they are this year.

But snow pack data is more than just about the numbers. It translates into something much more tangible. For example, it impacts your time on the slopes at Bogus Basin, and the boating season at Lucky Peak. It also plays into the number of times you can float down the Boise River or kayak on the Payette.

But for some, the importance of snow pack melts down to simply being able to stay afloat and make a living.

"We risk our entire net worth every year on that bet that we're going to be able to get that crop in and get it in shape and get it sold," Caldwell farmer Sid Freeman said. "When we don't it has a major economic impact on our operations and on the local economy as a whole."

Freeman has been farming in Caldwell for 30 years. Snow pack levels are low so far this year. On top of that, Freeman said water levels in the reservoirs were low going into this winter as well.

"I think we've got a little bit of time here to get some more storms in, but we need them and they need to get here if they're coming," he said.

The threat of another dry year had Freeman preparing to make changes to his plans for planting crops.

"We've been re-thinking our crop rotation with the drought situation that we've been in," he said. "We're trying to decide whether to plant quite as much corn or more spring grain because it takes less water."

Freeman said a dry winter could also mean he would have to farm on fewer acres to conserve water. However, he says recent storms have him cautiously optimistic about the upcoming season.

"But, we've got a long ways to go," he added."When you fall that far behind this late into the winter, it's a risk and you know, Mother Nature is completely in control of how we finish out here."