Rafters Look at Subpar River Predictions 

A warm winter means wimpier whitewater

A warm winter will affect whitewater.

Natural Resources Conservation Sercive

A warm winter will affect whitewater.

While area ski resorts have suffered from this season's warm winter weather, the disappointing snowpack hasn't been great news for river enthusiasts, either.

Nearly 50 members of the Idaho Whitewater Association gathered last week at Cascade Outfitters in Garden City to hear from Ron Abramovich, a water supply specialist at the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Abramovich is also an avid rafter, and he offered a forecast for this year's boating season.

"We've got to look to our neighbors to see how good we've got it," Abramovich said, showing a powerpoint slide of Snow Telemetry—or SNOTEL—sites in the west. The slide showed snowpacks as little as 9 percent of normal in Oregon and Washington.

Idaho's range was anywhere from 51 percent of normal in the panhandle, to 90 percent of normal along the Salmon River. SNOTEL sites in northern Idaho are at a record low, tied with stats collected back in 1977.

"There's pockets of good, like the Salmon, but those are isolated," Abramovich said. "It's the warm temperatures and rain that killed us in February."

According to the National Weather Service, last month was the warmest February in the Treasure Valley since record collecting started in 1940.

Abramovich explained how two pockets of warm water along the country's coasts have kept the jet stream away from us.

"The closer you get to Montana, the better the snowpack," he said, explaining how the Lochsa and Selway rivers look good, with snowpack ranging from 83 to 100 percent of normal.

But in 2013, they were pushing 150 percent of normal, so waters on the Lochsa won't be as high as last year's Memorial Day weekend, when the popular Lochsa Madness float takes place.

Abramovich said to expect a whitewater season with peaks slightly smaller and shorter than last year's. He also expects early runoff.

As of March 5, Lucky Peak Reservoir is already 81 percent full, and Hells Canyon also looks good, along with the Snake River. The Owyhee and Bruneau rivers will suffer, though.

"Hey," someone yelled from the audience. "At least we're not in California."

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