Kootenay spring runoff already running high

Spring runoff flowing through the Columbia River is higher than normal, according to a recent report from the B.C. River Forecast Centre.

Spring runoff flowing through the Columbia River is higher than normal, according to a recent report from the B.C. River Forecast Centre.

The river is sitting at 111 per cent of its normal runoff, much higher than it has been in the last five years when runoff was well below normal.

The pace set by the river in spring of 2012 surpasses the output from 2008 when the river neared 110 per cent of its runoff average.

It’s the same story with the Kootenay River, which feeds into the Columbia at Castlegar, carrying on the trend for a five-year high for runoff, slightly surpassing 2008’s 100 per cent runoff at 101 per cent in 2012 at this time.

Although La Niña conditions are still present across the equatorial Pacific Ocean, said Dave Campbell of the B.C. River Forecast Centre in the report, temperature anomalies are weaker than last year’s La Niña event.

He said the La Niña event could break down this spring, but Environment Canada is calling for cooler than normal conditions for the next three months throughout the West Kootenay and across B.C.

“Seasonal precipitation forecasts are for more normal precipitation over the same period across the province,” he said.

That also means the snow pack will not go quickly, and will likely be maintained well into the warmer months.

Nearby, the Okanagan and Kettle River basins are only seeing 88 per cent of normal runoff, while the Similkameen is higher at 102 per cent.

The low snow pack in the Okanagan-Kettle basin — which also flows into the Boundary country — is a concern for seasonal flow and the potential for low flows through the summer.

By this date, about 80 per cent of the annual BC snow pack has typically accumulated, with approximately six to eight weeks of additional accumulation season still to come, said Campbell. At a provincial level, snow pack levels are near normal through most of the province, with the exception of higher snow pack levels in northern B.C.

Although the West Kootenay region has higher flows than normal, danger of flooding remains remote, according to the report.  However, flooding forecasters are keeping an eye on snow pack levels in northern B.C. as cooler than normal temperatures have produced near-record snow levels in some areas.

In the Nechako Basin, the snowpack is nearly 160 per cent of normal while the Upper Fraser shows a snowpack of 144 per cent of normal.