Heavy February Snows Ensure Ample Irrigation For Idaho's Magic Valley In Spring

Mar 14, 2019

Shoshone Falls, the "Niagara of the West," roars in the spring of 2017 following the record-setting "snowmageddon" winter.
Credit Matt Guilhem / Boise State Public Radio

Mountain snowfall in February means Idaho is poised to have plenty of water this spring.

Reservoirs on the Upper Snake River are at 87 percent of capacity. There’s so much water that the Bureau of Reclamation is already making releases from the Palisades Reservoir for flood control.

Farmers in the Magic Valley can expect a banner year in terms of irrigation. With lots of liquid stored in reservoirs and yet-to-melt snow, those in the agriculture sector are heading into spring with higher than normal levels of stored water.

Idaho Water Resources Board spokesperson Steve Stuebner tells the Times News irrigators in all basins can expect a full allotment of water. All told, farmers across Idaho irrigate over 55 million acres.

While the abundant runoff will be a boon to ranchers and farmers, it will also provide a show at Shoshone Falls. Earlier this month, water was spilling over the “Niagara of the West” at around 6,100 cubic feet per second (cfs). While the falls usually get up to around 10,000 or 12,000 cfs in the spring – which makes for an impressive sight – especially high runoff years can push the flow to a raging 20,000 cfs.

The Bureau of Reclamation expects to keep releasing water from the Milner Dam, about 20 miles up-stream from the 212-foot waterfall, into May.

For more local news, follow the KBSX newsroom on Twitter @KBSX915

Copyright 2019 Boise State Public Radio