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PUD's annual snowpack survey finds more water for summer

PUD's annual survey finds more water for hydro power, drinking and fish

  • Brian Parsley (left) and Mark Shayne, both with Snohomish County PUD, hike on Olney Pass above Spada Lake on Friday during the annual snowpack survey.

    Michael O'Leary / The Herald

    Brian Parsley (left) and Mark Shayne, both with Snohomish County PUD, hike on Olney Pass above Spada Lake on Friday during the annual snowpack survey.

  • Brian Parsley (left) and Mark Shayne hike on Olney Pass Friday to measure the snowpack during the PUD's annual survey.

    Michael O'Leary / The Herald

    Brian Parsley (left) and Mark Shayne hike on Olney Pass Friday to measure the snowpack during the PUD's annual survey.

  • Brian Parsley (left) and Mark Shayne, both with the Snohomish County Public Utility District, hike on Olney Pass Friday to measure the depth and weigh...

    Michael O'Leary / The Herald

    Brian Parsley (left) and Mark Shayne, both with the Snohomish County Public Utility District, hike on Olney Pass Friday to measure the depth and weight of the snowpack during the annual survey.

  • Brian Parsley (left) and Mark Shayne, both with the Snohomish County Public Utility District, struggle in their snowshoes along Stickney Ridge as they...

    Michael O'Leary / The Herald

    Brian Parsley (left) and Mark Shayne, both with the Snohomish County Public Utility District, struggle in their snowshoes along Stickney Ridge as they measure the depth and weight of the snow during the annual snow survey.

  • Parsley (left) and Shayne plunge an aluminum tube into the snow to measure depths at Stickney Ridge.

    Parsley (left) and Shayne plunge an aluminum tube into the snow to measure depths at Stickney Ridge.

  • Brian Parsley (left) and Mark Shayne, both with the Snohomish County Public Utility District, hike on Olney Pass Friday to measure the depth and weigh...

    Michael O'Leary / The Herald

    Brian Parsley (left) and Mark Shayne, both with the Snohomish County Public Utility District, hike on Olney Pass Friday to measure the depth and weight of the snowpack during the annual survey.

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By Bill Sheets
Herald Writer
Published:
  • Brian Parsley (left) and Mark Shayne, both with Snohomish County PUD, hike on Olney Pass above Spada Lake on Friday during the annual snowpack survey.

    Michael O'Leary / The Herald

    Brian Parsley (left) and Mark Shayne, both with Snohomish County PUD, hike on Olney Pass above Spada Lake on Friday during the annual snowpack survey.

  • Brian Parsley (left) and Mark Shayne hike on Olney Pass Friday to measure the snowpack during the PUD's annual survey.

    Michael O'Leary / The Herald

    Brian Parsley (left) and Mark Shayne hike on Olney Pass Friday to measure the snowpack during the PUD's annual survey.

  • Brian Parsley (left) and Mark Shayne, both with the Snohomish County Public Utility District, hike on Olney Pass Friday to measure the depth and weigh...

    Michael O'Leary / The Herald

    Brian Parsley (left) and Mark Shayne, both with the Snohomish County Public Utility District, hike on Olney Pass Friday to measure the depth and weight of the snowpack during the annual survey.

  • Brian Parsley (left) and Mark Shayne, both with the Snohomish County Public Utility District, struggle in their snowshoes along Stickney Ridge as they...

    Michael O'Leary / The Herald

    Brian Parsley (left) and Mark Shayne, both with the Snohomish County Public Utility District, struggle in their snowshoes along Stickney Ridge as they measure the depth and weight of the snow during the annual snow survey.

  • Parsley (left) and Shayne plunge an aluminum tube into the snow to measure depths at Stickney Ridge.

    Parsley (left) and Shayne plunge an aluminum tube into the snow to measure depths at Stickney Ridge.

  • Brian Parsley (left) and Mark Shayne, both with the Snohomish County Public Utility District, hike on Olney Pass Friday to measure the depth and weigh...

    Michael O'Leary / The Herald

    Brian Parsley (left) and Mark Shayne, both with the Snohomish County Public Utility District, hike on Olney Pass Friday to measure the depth and weight of the snowpack during the annual survey.

Despite an unusually dry fall, the Cascades' snowpack is deeper than normal, according to officials with the Snohomish County Public Utility District.
After a near-record dry December, "we've certainly made up for it in the last couple of months," said Dennis D'Amico, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle.
A deep snowpack means a good water supply for the summer and potentially more hydropower for the county, according to the PUD.
About 80 percent of the drinking water for Snohomish County comes from Spada Lake, via Lake Chaplain, to the city of Everett.
The utility generates close to 5 percent of its power by running water from Spada Lake through a pipeline to turbines in a pumphouse four miles downstream on the Sultan River. The PUD also operates small dams at Youngs Creek near Sultan and Woods Creek near Monroe.
The snowpack tends to run in five- to seven-year cycles between spikes, said Bruce Meaker,a principal engineer with the PUD. The utility has been measuring the mountain snowpack since 1986.
After hitting a low in 2010, "it's on the way back up," he said.
Measurements are taken in three different locations in the Sultan River basin: Stickney Ridge, at 3,600 feet; Olney Pass, at 3,300 feet, and Kromona Mine at 2,400 feet.
Measurements taken Friday showed nearly 12 feet of snow at Stickney Ridge -- 145 percent of normal for this time of year. The snowpack was 195 percent of normal at Olney Pass and 154 percent at Kromona Mine.
The actual inch counts were 143.8 inches at Stickney (compared to 115.5 last year), 100.5 inches at Olney (compared to 60 last year) and 82.8 inches at Kromona (compared to 41.7).
This year's high totals were far from a record, though, Meaker said. That was set just four years ago, in 2008, with 197 inches at Stickney, 137 at Olney and 125.6 Kromona.
PUD technicians take a helicopter ride into the mountains to do the survey. They measure and collect the snow with a long tube marked in inches and feet. The tube is weighed with a hand-held scale to determine the water content. The snow is collected at 10 different spots at each of the three locations and the numbers are added and averaged.
The testing is done this month every year because the snow tends to accumulate over the winter and usually hits a peak no later than March, Meaker said.
Snowpack numbers are generally high around the state, said D'Amico of the weather service. Precipitation has been right on average for the region since Jan. 1, he said.
"It's been colder than normal and more of that's fallen as snow," he said.
The water content of the snow was also higher than average, Meaker said. This is good news for the water supply and potentially for hydropower.
With more water coming down the mountain into Spada Lake, the PUD can at times release more water through the turbines at the powerhouse, depending on factors such as evaporation levels, drinking water supply and flow for fish habitat, Neroutsos said.
"It provides greater flexibility in terms of how we generate energy going into the summer," he said.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.




Story tags » Water SuppliesPUDSnow

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