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Oregon Snowpack (copy)

There's good news to report today about snow in the mid-valley — although if you've arisen today to see a fresh coating of the white stuff on area roads, you might not necessarily agree, at least not at first.

We spend a lot of time editorially fretting about the status of the region's snowpack, especially considering there's not much we can do about it year to year. But there's still good reason to keep an eye on snowpack levels each winter: They're a good indicator of how our summer will go. Will our forests dry out weeks or months before they should, leading to yet another exceptionally busy fire season? Will farmers have adequate water supplies for irrigation? Will we have enough water to help drive a solid recreation and tourism season, with all the fishing and rafting and related activities that we enjoy in an Oregon summer?

Just three weeks ago, there was reason for serious concern: Officials at the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which tracks the statewide numbers, said that snowpack statewide remains well below normal — and one of the state's regions with particularly low numbers was the Willamette Valley basin, which had a snow water equivalent of about 54 percent of normal. And February typically is the last month when snowpack can accumulate in any serious way — and forecasters were calling for a month that was colder than normal (check) and drier.

Well, hold off on putting a check by that "drier" box.

February has brought a series of recent storms that have dumped snow and rain throughout the region. The experts at the Natural Resources Conservation Service recently reported that snowpack throughout the state has significantly improved over the last few weeks. Most of Eastern Oregon, for example, has snowpack with a snow water equivalent of more than 100 percent of normal.

Oddly enough, conditions are drier west of the Cascade Mountains. Our Willamette basin, for example, has about 86 percent of normal levels of snow water equivalent. That's not necessarily great, but it's a lot better than the 54 percent mark that the service measured earlier this month. (The driest basin is around Mount Hood and the Lower Deschutes, at 83 percent; again, that's not great, but it's better than the 49 percent mark in early February.)

And, as you may have noticed, there's a chance that additional storms this week could give another boost to the snowpack: In fact, a storm expected today could drop as much as 6 inches of snow in some locations in the mid-valley. Now, there's no doubt that a storm like that could make traveling conditions miserable today, so be careful if it plays out the way that forecasters were expecting on Sunday. 

But any short-term misery today could have a long-term payoff just a few months down the road. (mm)

Campaign caregiving

It can be difficult for first-term legislators to get into the swing of their first session, so we were encouraged to read about a common-sense bill being promoted by two rookies: Republican Rep. Shelly Boshart Davis of Albany and Rep. Courtney Neron of Wilsonville, a Democrat. 

The two, both mothers of school-age children, have introduced legislation that would allow political campaign funds in Oregon to be used for certain caregiving expenses, if those expenses are directly attributable to campaign activities. The bill would update Oregon election laws to specifically define caregiving expenses, which include babysitting and caring for family members who are elderly and disabled, as a lawful campaign expense. Other states have similar rules, and the Federal Elections Commission has approved child care costs as campaign expenses for federal elections. The bill would remove a hurdle that stops people from running for office.

It's encouraging as well that the bill is a bipartisan effort: Davis' predecessor, Andy Olson, made a habit of working with legislators from the other side of the aisle. Let's hope his successor keeps that tradition alive. (mm)

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