Recent rain providing some relief to local ranchers

Storms that have unofficially dumped more than one inch of rain in the Kingman area over the last two weeks could lead to more forage in the spring for wildlife.

"We had three days of rain from the Valentine's Day storm, which came out of the tropics and gave us more rain than snow," Larry Martinez, water supply specialist with the United States Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, said.

"What I see positive out of the two recent storms is replenished soil moisture.

That moisture will help grasses in the spring as temperatures warm in promoting growth of vegetation, feed for cattle and for ground nesting birds and wildlife that depend on the forage."

One other benefit will be in fuller stock tanks on rangeland, he said.

The impact of February precipitation will be reflected in the March 1 Arizona Basin Outlook Report issued by the NRCS.

The report of Feb.

15 states inflow into Lake Powell on the Colorado River is expected to be 58 percent of average through July.

Snow survey measurements by National Park Service personnel at the Grand Canyon show snow pack to be just 30 percent of average.

Lake Powell inflow for April through July is 7.93 million-acre feet on 30-year average.

But this year it is expected to be only 4.6 million-acre feet, based on the 58 percent of average figure.

An acre-foot is 12 inches of water covering an acre of land and is enough water to sustain a family of four for one year, Martinez said.

"Inflow at Lake Powell hasn't been 100 percent for the last four years," Martinez said.

"And 100 percent is normal snow pack, so we're 70 points under for the Grand Canyon."

Reservoir storage also is down significantly.

The report states usable storage water at Lake Mead is 16,888 acre feet, which is down nearly 3,000 from last year when the lake held 19,819 acre feet.

The 30-year average for the lake is 22,072 acre-feet.

Lake Powell is down more than 4,000 acre feet, going from 17,332 last year to 13,024 now.

Its average is 18,448.

"The lakes continue to recede, which is going to affect recreational opportunities not only on Powell but Mead," Martinez said.

"The upper watershed of the Colorado River will not see any significant increases in flow until the April through July period when temperatures warm and we get some snow melt at the highest elevations."

Tom Stehly, soil conservationist with the NRCS in Kingman, said February precipitation has helped with snow pack around Flagstaff and in the Hualapai Mountains.

Despite the good signs county ranchers are not yet ready to increase their cattle herds, he said.

"Rainfall has been sporadic," Stehly said.

"It's still pretty rough in some areas around Yucca.

"But the slopes of the Hualapais are getting some good precipitation and grasses are beginning to green up.

The rain coming now is a shot in the arm and we can always use more."

While it is too early to tell about soil moisture content signs of snow pack and precipitation in northwest Arizona are likely to bring a "shot in the arm" effect for ranchers and wildlife seeking forage in the spring, Stehly said.