Henry’s Fork Rainbow Trout migrating to spawn in the Buffalo River have to pass through the fish ladder at the Buffalo River hydroelectric facility to access upstream habitat. At the end of the fish ladder we, HFF, operate a fish trap from early February through the middle of June. Three times a week we check the Buffalo River fish trap and collect data on species, length, sex, and life histories via passive integrated transponders (PIT) tags if one is present, before passing the fish upstream of the hydroelectric facility.
The main message: Spring of 2018 brought the highest runoff event in 7 years to the upper Henry’s Fork watershed! Our network of water quality monitors showed that these flows were strong enough to provide a major springtime sediment flush--a natural rhythm of our local hydrology that provides significant benefit to trout and aquatic insect habitat. These favorably high natural flows came in two periods during April and May of this year.
May 22-24 precipitation totals were over 1 inch at most locations; water-year precipitation jumped from 105% of average to 109%.
Snowmelt continues at average rates, and SWE remains at 102% of average.
Watershed-total natural flow has increased to its highest level so far this year and higher than last year’s peak.
Inflow to Island Park Reservoir is around 1,600 cfs, and outflow is currently just a hair over inflow, allowing the reservoir to drop very slowly. Current reservoir content is a little higher than full pool.
In 2005, when I was a professor at Idaho State University, the Henry's Fork Foundation Board of Directors asked me to present an overview of hydrology and water management in the upper Snake River basin. Since then, the hydrology and water-management short course has taken on a life of its own, and I give this presentation in some form or another a few times each year. Every time I give the presentation, I update it with new information, particularly as related to climate change and the rapidly changing work of water management and admininstration.
Cool, wet weather from mid-February to mid-April turned an average water supply into one that is decidedly above average.
As of May 9, the Henry’s Fork reservoir system is 94% full and filling rapidly.
Based on early-April conditions, summertime water supply in the Henry’s Fork watershed is forecast to be above average.
More storage water will be delivered from Island Park Reservoir this summer than in 2017, but higher inflows will compensate, resulting in a very high probability of better-than-average carryover at the end of the irrigation season.
Despite a forecast for conditions that could have resulted in large loss of snowpack yesterday, atmospheric conditions lined up just right to not only avoid the loss but actually gain a very large amount of snow-water-equivalent (SWE). Read on for the details, as well as for an example from the spring of 2010 that illustrates a very large rain-on-snow event.