USBR predicts ample runoff in North Platte Basin

Andrew D. Brosig/Business Farmer File Low water levels, normal for this time of year, reflect the rising sun recently along the North Platte River in Torrington, Wyo. Mid-March snow measurements by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration put snow water equivelants at above average looking forward into the spring melt.

MILLS, Wyo. – Local agricultural producers who rely on the North Platte River for their irrigation needs won’t have much to worry about this year, according to a press release from the United States Bureau of Reclamation. 

According to USBR Area Manager Carlie Ronca, there should be no shortage of water, based on the snowmelt forecast for the North Platte River Basin. 

“Based on this month’s projections of near average runoff, we expect the North Platte River Basin water contractors will have a full supply of water this year,” she said. 

The USBR is projecting that March’s runoff will be close to the average amount, while April and July runoff in the basin is expected to be at 98 percent of the 30-year average. These projections were made before a blizzard dumped between 10-20 inches of snow on the eastern side of Wyoming, as well. 

But still, North Platte Reservoirs are sitting above average. According to the release, storage content in North Platte Reservoirs amounted to about 110 percent of the 30-year average. 

The USBR have been releasing 530 cubic feet per second of water from Seminoe Reservoir through the Miracle Mile and 500 cfs from Gray Reef near Casper, Wyo. As of now, officials have not begun to release water from Guernsey Reservoir, though expected releases from Guernsey are expected to be more substantial than others in the summer months. 

During the summer, releases from Guernsey are expected to be in the 3,500 to 5,300 cfs range, while Seminoe and Gray Reef aren’t expected to exceed 3,000 cfs. 

The USBR is also controlling fluctuating flows in the North Platte River near Gray Reef Dam at the request of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. The purpose, according to Ronca, is to help with the reproduction of trout. 

“The purpose of the fluctuations is to improve trout reproduction in the river,” Ronca said. 

The WyGFD requested the USBR manipulate the flows on March 18 through 24. At the height of the action, Gray Reef will release 4,000 cfs, but the fluctuations will come between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. During the day, Gray Reef will only release 500 cfs. 

The purpose of the fluctuations is to clean the spawning gravels of fine sediment that could impede the trout’s reproduction. The USBR doesn’t expect any agricultural impacts from the fluctuating releases. 

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