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FEATURE - Rain, Sleet or Snow...Measuring Up

BEAVER DAM - Ellen Cook, Headliner Media Specialist, October 2, 2022

Ben Johnson is all about weather. For the past two decades he has measured precipitation and taken Mother Nature’s temperature at his place of employment, Cutler Dam.

Ben is part of the Cooperative Observer Program (COOP) of the US National Weather Service and was recently recognized with a 20-year Service Award. The COOP was created way back in 1890 and observers are set up around the country to help track, record and submit daily reading on temperatures and precipitation in their area. One such station is located at Cutler Dam, just a short distance from Ben’s home in Beaver Dam.

Ben said the data is taken down in the morning and then logged into a database daily – whatever the weather looks like outside. The results are sent by email to NWS headquarters, where it is read and utilized to help determine weather patterns, droughts or heat waves. The numbers are especially helpful to the agricultural industry, especially in Box Elder County.

“Weather affects things more that most people realize,” Ben said. That is especially true at Cutler Dam, that feeds down the Bear River and Bear River Canal Company lines. Any increase in the levels of the reservoir and more water has to be released. The reservoir drops and water downstream is limited.

Ben said that water comes all the way from Bear Lake to get to Cutler Dam. “It is like a funnel. We are the last hydro plant on the Bear River,” he said. The lack of measurable precipitation anywhere along the line can affect what is available at the end. “That rain and snow, that’s hydro fuel,” he said.

He recalled one year when the Bear River’s levels dropped significantly, and experts predicted Cutler would have no water. “It was so low, we were told it would take 20 years to fill it back up,” Ben recalled. “But Mother Nature proved them wrong. It filled up in one year.”

Ben said working with the water on the Cutler has made him more aware of what is going on, weatherwise and how it, in turn, controls what goes on throughout the rest of the county. And taking those daily measurements increases that awareness.

“I am fortunate to work with such good people who have become my friends,” he said. “I was surprised with the award, but I certainly appreciate being recognized.”


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