Folsom Lake is nearly doubling the amount of water it lets out through its dam as water officials look to make room for the above average Sierra snowpack and future storms.
The lake is currently at 116 percent of its historical average for this time of year and is 61 percent full.
Officials with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages Folsom Lake levels, worry too much water could cause a safety issue that could lead to flooding downriver.
In December, the lake reached an all-time low. Since then, it’s added more than four times as much water.
“We can’t hold onto all of it,” said Shane Hunt, a Bureau of Reclamation Public Affairs Officer. “We’re going to see more inflows come in than the reservoir can take, even if it doesn’t rain anymore, just from the snowpack. You can’t hold on to every drop.”
The outflow on Tuesday night increased from 1,750 to 3,000 cubic feet per second.
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Sunday Jan. 31 will be remembered as the day Folsom Lake recovered.
In less than two months, Folsom Lake has gone from the lowest level in its 60-year history to above average for this time of year.
According to preliminary data from the California Department of Water Resources, Folsom Lake rose from below average to above average sometime between 4 and 5 a.m. Sunday.
As of 5 a.m., Folsom Lake held 507,193 acre feet (AF) of water. The average for Jan. 31 is 506,849 AF.
An acre foot of water will supply the average household for a year.
On Sunday morning, the lake level stood at 418 feet above sea level, roughly 70 feet higher than when it bottomed out on Dec. 4 with just 135,561 AF.
Like it or not, Folsom Lake will likely soon shift roles from water storage to flood control.
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Less than a week after leaks were found in a cofferdam at Folsom Lake, the structure could be coming down soon.
The cofferdam was designed to keep crews dry while they worked on the auxiliary spillway for the Folsom Dam. It wasn’t supposed to come down for another two weeks, but after the leak, the Army Corps of Engineers says it just makes sense to move up the date.
Every move is being calculated, and every piece of equipment and staff is mapped out and assigned before moving ahead in the $900 million Folsom spillway project.
“It could happen as early as tomorrow, we could still be a couple more days,” spokesman Rick Brown said.
The engineers are waiting for daylight and more discernment. If the cofferdam is removed, it would mark a turning point for the project.
“The contractors already have those plans in place that they can operate as they say ‘in the wet’ so any further excavation they can get in there and use the proper equipment with no problems,” Brown said.
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Folsom Lake surpassed the 400-foot elevation mark Monday, allowing park rangers to drop the 5 mph speed limit at the popular boating area.
The reservoir was sitting at 403 feet as of 3 a.m. Tuesday and continued to rise as runoff from recent storms poured down the North, Middle and South Forks of the American River.
For the past week, the lake was rising an average of two feet per day, according to the California Data Exchange.
The 5 mph speed limit was implemented on July 13 when the lake dropped below 400 feet, cutting the summer recreation season short.
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California lake levels are rising as fast as the stock market is falling, with Folsom Lake east of Sacramento rising an astonishing 44 feet in just over a month and Lake Oroville, the second most expansive water storage facility in the state rising another 20 feet.
Early December saw Folsom Lake, just off Highway 50 on the way up to South Lake Tahoe, dwindle to the hydrological equivalent of a mud puddle.
It reached its lowest levels since they started filling it up after building the dam of around 349 feet above sea level.
Today, it has risen over 44 feet to just under 393 feet above sea level.
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Water-starved Folsom Lake is beginning to slowly fill up and recover from its lowest water levels ever.
The state’s ninth-largest reservoir, the main water source for the sprawling Sacramento suburbs, shrank to a mere 135,561 acre feet on Dec. 4, 2015. The previous lowest level at Folsom was 140,600 acre feet, recorded during the 1976–77 drought. An acre foot is enough water to flood an acre of land under a foot of water, and roughly the amount required by a family of four over a year.
With the recent rains, Folsom’s water level has risen 28.5 feet and the reservoir is now holding 246,497 acre feet of water.
“The lake continues to slowly rise,” Karl Swanberg, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Sacramento, said in an interview. “While this current storm isn’t dropping a lot of rain on Folsom, we’re getting runoff from the Sierra from past storms and some snow melt.”
The Central Sierra snow pack is at 107 percent of average and the American River, which feeds into Folsom, travels through these mountains.
That said, Swanberg adds the lake is still only at 25 percent capacity. “It’s kind of a good news, bad news situation,” he said. “The lake has risen 28.5 feet in the past month. However it’s still at 51 percent of average for this time of year.”
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The wet weather this week in northern California left many Christmas travelers worried, and water experts smiling. Folsom Lake has gone up nearly 13 feet in just two days.
According to measurements from the California Bureau of Reclamation, the lake, which serves as a water source for many Sacramento-area neighborhoods, rose 12.6 feet.
There is similar good news from the Department of Water Resources, whose graph shows a sharp spike from this week’s storm. According to their measurements, Folsom Lake’s storage went from 16 percent of capacity on Monday to 19 percent capacity Wednesday.
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An elderly man who spent hours in the frigid waters of Folsom Lake survived after his younger friend and emergency crews came to his aid last week.
The 88-year-old man, identified in a California Highway Patrol news release only as Jim, was boating Friday with a 59-year-old companion, while trolling for the wreckage of a plane that had crashed in the 1960s. Their 12-foot aluminum boat ended up overturning around noon, the release said.
The younger man was wearing a dry suit in case he had to dive for wreckage. The older man was wearing street clothes and a life vest, the release said.
The two attempted to swim for shore while towing their boat, but the older man fell unconscious with hypothermia. His friend got him to shore but couldn’t haul him up a steep, muddy bank and left him lying in shallow water, officials said.
The Sacramento County Coroner’s Office has released the name of a man found dead in the American River in November.
A dog found the body of Jerry Monk, 42, of Sacramento floating in the water at Sutter’s Landing park in Sacramento.
The dog being exercised by its owner came upon the body in the river about 7:35 a.m. Nov. 18. The dog owner phoned in the discovery and fire department personnel arrived at the park near 28th Street along the river.
The body of an unidentified woman was found in the American River in Sacramento on Saturday morning, according to the Sacramento Fire Department.
The Sac City fire boat crew recovered the body after it was spotted by someone walking by the river, officials said. The body was brought ashore at Sutter’s Park Landing in Sacramento.
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