As spring makes its first genuine appearance of the year, hydrologists have a close eye on the mountains around Montana to gauge how the snowpack will affect the stream flow of the state’s rivers and streams.
The Madison River Basin is at 87 percent of average snowpack, but things are looking good in the mountains surrounding Madison Valley.
“It looks like the mountains around the Madison River haven’t really had any snow melt, which is good,” says Natural Resources Conservation Service water specialist Brian Domonkos. “The rest of the state has had minimal melting.”
In comparison to last year, the Madison River Basin is 85 percent of the previous year’s snowpack. At this time last year, the area was 102 percent of the average snowpack level.
“This time of year, we already have 95 percent of snowpack with around five percent still to come,” says Domonkos. “But anything can happen. We could still have some major spring storms.”
Statewide, precipitation levels have been lagging behind normal so far this year. The Madison River Basin was particularly hit hard. It saw the lowest amount of precipitation at 60 percent of normal.
In spite of the lack of precipitation in the last few months, Montana was above average at 103 percent concerning year-to-date precipitation.
The NRCS is rerunning numbers to go through March. Those results will not be out until later this week. Stream flow numbers based on the beginning of March show stream flow into Hebgen and into Ennis is right around 88 percent of average.
Statewide, stream flows are predicted to be right around normal this summer.
Stream flow determines the quality of aquatic habitats by affecting water temperatures, levels of dissolved oxygen and toxin levels. Low stream flows level can have negative effects on all three of those, creating a harmful environment for fish and other animals and vegetation that call the rivers home.
While other parts of Montana are seeing dismal snowpack levels, Madison Valley looks to be fairing better than drier parts of the state. This is good news for the upcoming fishing season.