‘We were blessed’: Late-spring precipitation brought local reservoirs near capacity for irrigation season

The Wind River Basin is having a “decent” irrigation season this year thanks to a burst of late-spring precipitation that left area reservoirs filled almost to capacity, local water managers said this month.

At the end of June, Boysen Reservoir held almost 725,000 acre-feet of water – 98 percent of its capacity – and Bull Lake Reservoir held about 147,000 acre-feet of water – 97 percent of its capacity, according to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

“I don’t know that we were forecasting we were going to fill the reservoirs,” the Bureau’s Wyoming Area Office manager Lyle Myler said this month. “But luckily we got some additional moisture there at the end that made that possible.”

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The Riverton area received more than 3 inches of precipitation in May – well above the normal rate of 1.92 inches for the month, according to the National Weather Service.

April was wetter than normal too, with 1.72 inches of precipitation falling in the Riverton area compared to the normal rate of 1.2 inches.

“We were blessed,” Midvale Irrigation District manager Steve Lynn said. “You get those April and May storms that blow through, and it just helps.”

This year’s irrigation season should extend into late September or early October, Lynn said, with all Midvale users receiving “their share” of water.

“I believe that over in that part of the state they’ll be able to deliver their full supplies, and irrigators will have their needs met,” Myler agreed.

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On the Wind River Indian Reservation, Tribal irrigation supervisor Kenneth Ferris said “we might make it to the end of our season, too.”

That hasn’t always been the case in recent years – but this spring Ferris said his agency “made some adjustments” to the water storage plan for Washakie Reservoir, and he thinks those changes “will get us by to help everybody out to get to the end.”

The Bureau of Indian Affairs used to manage irrigation on the reservation, Ferris explained, and they “didn’t really store the water that well.”

“During runoff … whatever was coming in (they) were matching that to release it,” he said.

Now, the Office of the Tribal Water Engineer is in charge, and Ferris said this year “we stored it, (so) that kind of helped. …

“I think we’ll make it to the end now.”

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