CHEYENNE — The snowpack in Wyoming continues to rise as recent spring storms add to already sizable mountain accumulations, but officials say reservoirs in the state should have the capacity to hold runoff and prevent major flooding.
The statewide snowpack is 164 percent of average — up from only 57 percent at this time last year, Lee Hackleman, water supply specialist with the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service in Casper, said in a statement Monday.
Hackleman said the last time Wyoming saw that level of snowpack at this time of year was in 2011. He said mountain snow is melting slower than normal this year.
Coleman Smith, manager of the Wyoming Area Office for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said this year's anticipated high runoff will be a welcome relief to water managers.
"We don't have a lot of concerns about having too much water this year, like we did in 2010 and 2011," Smith said. "Mainly because our past two water years have been so poor, it's really depleted the reservoirs. So especially on the North Platte, we've got plenty of space for all the water we're forecasting to come down."
Water managers are removing water from reservoirs in drainages on the Wind River and Bighorn mountain ranges to make room for spring runoff, Smith said.
"The bottom line is we're not going to have a lot of flooding, which is of course what folks are worried about when they see high snowpack," Smith said.
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Larry Hicks, natural resource coordinator at the Little Snake River Conservation District in Baggs, said Monday that most of the snowpack in the area is at higher elevations, which typically means it will trickle down later in the year.
"We had a little earlier warm-up than some other areas of the state, so all of our low-elevation snowpack is gone, so we're actually in pretty good shape," Hicks said.
The wet winter has left range conditions as good as they have been in three or four years, Hicks said, adding that many stock ponds are filled.
Renny MacKay, spokesman for Gov. Matt Mead, said Monday that the governor's office has a plan to support local communities in the event of flooding, which accounts for possible trouble spots and addresses resources for deployment. He said disaster teams include members of the state Office of Homeland Security, National Guard and Department of Corrections.
MacKay said state officials are actively monitoring stream flows, weather forecasts and snowpack to stay ahead of potentially hazardous conditions.
"The snowpack is particularly large this year, creating a high risk of flooding," MacKay said in a written statement. "Gov. Mead will be aggressive in working for public safety. He believes it is important to get resources on the ground ahead of flooding."