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It's not just skiers, boarders praying for snow

By Kandra Kent
Published On: Jan 06 2014 08:47:24 PM CST

NewsChannel 21's Kandra Kent spoke with water experts and farmers about what the lack of snow will mean come summer.

SISTERS, Ore. -

While the Northeast is being hit with an Arctic blast, Central Oregon, is, well...not.

"This is not good -- this is way, way, way behind," Three Sisters Irrigation District Manager Marc Thalacker said Monday.

Experts say our High Desert mountains should have about 80 percent more snow covering the peaks, compared to average for this point in the season.

"We have to get above-normal precipitation and snow for the remainder of this winter to even get back up to normal," said Oregon Water Resources Regional Department Manager Kyle Gorman.

And it's not just skiers and snowboarders looking toward the sky -- farmers are, too.

Rainshadow Organics is a small farm in Terrebonne,  in the shadow of the Three Sisters.

"The fun was not had in the winter -- then it's the real hell that comes in the summer," said farmer Sarahlee Lawrence.

Lawrence depends entirely on the snowmelt feeding Whychus Creek to water her 26 acres of irrigated crops in the summer.

Less snow now means less water later.

"That could be really detrimental to our farm," Lawrence said. "We use thousands of gallons of water each day."

Thalacker said his district doesn't have a large reservoir to store water.

"Farmers rely entirely on snowpack, live streamflow," Thalacker said.

He said if the weather doesn't change, farmers will pay a big price.

"There's no question, if they have to use their supplemental groundwater, it increases their costs," he said.

Other areas at risk of low streamflows and irrgation are Tumalo Creek and the Crooked River drainage system, above the Prineville and Ochocos reservoirs.

Districts with storage reservoirs should be fine this summer, but come next summer, they, too, could feel the affects of the meager snowpack.

Gorman said in his more than 20 years working in Central Oregon, he's never seen the snowpack this low at this time of year -- all the more reason experts will keep a watchful eye on the snow.

In the meantime, Lawrence will prepare for planting, and hope Mother Nature will take care of the rest.

"Just hoping for plenty of water," Lawrence said.

Others are keeping their fingers crossed.

"Pray for snow," Thalacker said with a laugh.

Some mountain snow is indeed possible in the next few days. Whether it and subsequent storms will be enough to make up for lost time, time will tell -- and many will be watching.

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