Late June storms help Beaverhead drought status


According to the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Drought Status Map, Beaverhead and Madison County are the two counties in the state currently at risk of falling under a drought alert. The neighboring counties in southwestern Montana have a slightly dry rating, one step above moderately dry, a level that falls under a drought alert. The only other level is extremely dry, a level of severe drought.

In general, the rest of the western Montana counties are near average on the Montana Drought Status Map, while the counties from south-central to south-eastern Montana are moderately dry. The northern band of counties across the state are rated slightly moist. 

According to Gina Loss of the National Weather Service, Beaverhead and Madison Counties could easily fall to drought alert status without continued moisture through July and forward. Loss supplied numerous facts related to the drought status of Beaverhead County during the monthly meeting of the Beaverhead County Drought/Flood Task Force at the Beaverhead County Courthouse Monday morning.

According to Loss, other than isolated pockets of areas, most of Beaverhead County is well below average precipitation for the current water year that began Oct. 1 of 2013.

According to Loss, a number of late June storms helped the area’s desperate water situation. June is traditionally Beaverhead’s biggest precipitation month, but the first few weeks were hot and dry.

The low water conditions were anticipated by irrigation districts and according to Dennis Miotke, speaking on behalf of the Bureau of Recreation, the East Bench Irrigation District, and Clark Canyon Water Users, the groups using water out of Clark Canyon voluntarily reduced their water allotments prior to the irrigation season.

“We’re in a drought management plan already,” said Miotke of the water users. 

Miotke reported that Clark Canyon is currently 55 percent full and 81 percent of average. A year ago the numbers were slightly better at 58 percent full and 83 percent of average. The current storage at Clark Canyon Reservoir is 96,747 acre feet, down 3,794 a/f from one year ago on June 30.

Inflows for June were 305 cubic feet per second per day, almost twice the rate of June 2013, when the water came in at 157cfs/day. 

Current releases are at 583 cfs due to higher use following the first cut of hay. Releases for the month of June totaled 27,280 a/f, below the 31,644 for June of 2013.


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