The environmental analysis for the installation of a snowpack telemetry site (SNOTEL) in the upper Elwha drainage has been completed and a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) has been approved by Pacific West Regional Director Jon Jarvis.
The environmental assessment (EA) was released in August for public review and comment. The EA analyzed three action alternatives, including the no action alternative, for the installation of a SNOTEL. The selected alternative is the installation of a full SNOTEL on Buckinghorse Ridge in the upper Elwha River drainage.
Mountain snowpack is extremely important to surrounding ecosystems and to most urban communities in the Pacific Northwest. Snowpack acts as a temporary reservoir of water, which is released during dry summer months into groundwater and rivers. Measuring snowpack allows scientists to forecast summer water supplies and understand effects on urban and rural water supplies, fish returns, and other ecosystem processes.
Snowpack data has been collected by federal scientists at Olympic National Park since 1949. The most reliable method for collection of snowpack and climate data in snow dominated ecosystems is a standard SNOTEL site. SNOTEL stations began replacing manual snow courses in the 1980s and the network has grown to over 700 sites in mountainous areas throughout the western US.
The Waterhole SNOTEL site near Hurricane Ridge is currently operated by the NRCS and provides hourly updates that are available online by visiting the Current Weather Conditions page of the Olympic National Park website: http://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/current-weather-conditions.htm
. Once the Elwha SNOTEL site is in place, information on the conditions will also be posted on this website.
Park crews plan to install the SNOTEL in late fall, weather permitting. If conditions make installation impossible in 2007, the site will be installed in late summer 2008. The installation will require 2 to 3 days. The site is not accessible by foot or packstock, so all supplies and personnel will be transported by helicopter.
This project is funded through the NRCS and the North Olympic Peninsula RC&D, which has recently received a grant to use remote sensing and meteorological data to provide daily estimates of snow pack and water supply.
Contact Bill Baccus, Olympic National Park Physical Science Technician, for more information about this project, at 360-565-3061.