Drought conditions improving with recent rainfalls

By Corey Evan; Independent Enterprise

PAYETTE — On April 25, Payette County Emergency Manager Adam Gonzalez gave the Payette County Board of Commissioners an update on the present state of drought conditions in Payette County. At the board’s regular meeting, he said that recent rainfall had helped improve things over where the county stood a month prior.

“There’s a lot of discussion about drought. I wanted to get ahead of the discussion a bit,” said Gonzalez to the board. “I know the Governor’s had some … discussion about it.”

In discussions with Payette Irrigation District Water Master Neil Shippy, he said Shippy determined that the recent rainstorms have been a big boon for local water storage, especially the Cascade Reservoir.

Gonzalez cited an Idaho SNOTEL Current Snow Water Equivalent report, dated April 25, which shows the Payette Basin as standing at 93% of normal totals. That percentage was at 66% on April 1.

The report’s calculations are based on a basin-wide percent of the 1991-2020 median snow water equivalent, as obtained from Gonzalez by the newspaper.

However, he also noted that according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Drought Monitor, Payette County is still experiencing moderate to severe drought as of April 19. Most of central and southern Idaho is experiencing severe drought, with some areas along the eastern and southern borders seeing “extreme” drought.

Despite the drought conditions, the county has little to no significant wildfire potential at this time, according to the National Interagency Fire Center’s forecast as of April 27.

“[Shippy] said as long as we don’t see the conditions that we saw last year, with extreme heat and dry weather, he said he is comfortable with where we’re at,” Gonzalez added. “That’s a pretty good thing.”

Gonzalez also noted that because of low moisture last year, there is presently less undergrowth on local public lands, which may help reduce wildfire potential this summer.

But as he noted, last year’s drought conditions combined with this year’s mild winter mean the county is not out of the woods yet.

“The U.S Department of Agriculture did identify Payette County as a drought-impacted area, and has made small business loans available to those who have been impacted directly from the drought.”

According to Gonzalez, businesses impacted by drought can apply for those loans through Dec. 31.

Noteworthy is that the Weiser Basin is presently at 112% of normal totals, and the Boise Basin is at 84% of normal, according to the report.

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