By Adam Jensen
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It’s no surprise to anyone who spent hours shoveling snow from their driveway this winter, but California’s drought will not last into a fourth year.
On Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown officially rescinded emergency drought declarations issued by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger since 2008.
The move followed the release of California Cooperative Snow Survey results showing the water content of the Sierra Nevada snowpack rests at 165 percent of the long-term average for April 1.
Surveyors measured 124.2 inches of snow, containing the equivalent of 43.5 inches of water, at Phillips Station, near the entrance to Sierra-at-Tahoe, Wednesday. The water content is 154 percent of the long-term average for the site at this time of year.
And data from the Natural Resource Conservation District shows the Lake Tahoe Basin faring even better than the west slope of the Sierra Nevada.
Freel Beach has a snow depth of 63 inches with a water equivalent of 23.8 inches. This measurement is 222 percent of the long-term average for the site and approximately 94 percent of the snow received during the 1982-83 El Niño winter.
The deepest snow recorded at the site came in 1938, when surveyors found 70 inches. Conservation district staff expect snow measurements at Lake Lucille later this week to exceed 18.5 feet.
The El Dorado Irrigation District hydrographers took their snow survey near Caples Lake Tuesday.
For the three snow courses that feed into the American River watershed from around Caples Lake area EID measured an average snow depth of 141 inches and average water content of 54.5 inches. The April–July percent of average runoff was 182 percent of normal for these three snow courses.
More than 61 feet of snow has fallen on the 400-mile-long Sierra Nevada this season, second only to the 1950-51 season when a total of 65 feet fell, according to records kept by the California Department of Transportation.
Several Sierra Nevada ski resorts have reported breaking snowfall records this season, but the amount of water in the snowpack has a precedent, said Frank Gehrke, chief of the cooperative snow survey program.
“It’s by no means record-breaking,” Gehrke said, comparing this season’s snowpack to 1995, which saw a mid-season lull similar to the six dry weeks experienced this year in January and the start of February.
Still, the above average snowpack is expected to ease water restrictions statewide.
“Recent storms have significantly contributed to the above-average snowpack, helping to stabilize California’s water supply for the year,” said California Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin, in a statement. “While this is beneficial for California’s farms, businesses and communities, we remind residents to practice sensible water use and conservation as we transition to warmer weather.”
Mountain Democrat Photo Editor Krysten Kellum contributed to this report.