Folsom Lake High Enough To Fend Off 5 MPH Speed Limit

Folsom Lake levels are high enough to fend off a 5 mph speed limit for Labor Day weekend — and boaters are pleasantly surprised, considering the statewide drought.

“We get to still use the lake. Summer is not over for us,” said Tim Vas Dias, a boater who uses Folsom Lake often. “We thought it would be closed by July 4 with the shortage of water and the drought situation we have here in California.”

Park officials told KCRA 3 on Thursday they will hold off on the 5 mph speed limit until after the holiday weekend.

The 5 mph speed limit is often imposed when the level of the lake is so low that there are many obstructions, like exposed rocks or old tree stumps.

The limit is often seen as the end of the season for boaters. The trigger for imposing the 5 mph speed limit is a lake level of about 400 feet.

Currently, Folsom Lake stands at about 400.54 inches.

People who use the lake frequently thought the drought would have dropped the lake levels much faster.

“Honestly, I thought they were going to have 5 mph in place a long time ago the way the lake was dropping,” said Mark Lerch, who uses the lake almost every day after work by taking out his personal watercraft. “It was dropping so quick, it seemed like a foot or two a day at the start of summer.”

State water officials said the reason the lake level on Folsom has not dropped faster is that this year, they have managed the water systems, upriver and down, even more meticulously than ever.

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Hiker Discovers Corpse In American River Canyon Near Auburn

The Placer County Coroner’s Office was attempting to determine Wednesday what caused the death of a Nevada City man whose body was found by a hiker in the American River canyon near Auburn.

The body of 23-year-old Stuart A. Martin was discovered off the Riverview Trail in the Auburn State Recreation Area on Tuesday afternoon.

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Sacramento County Limits Smoking And Barbecue Grills At Parks

Sacramento County supervisors imposed emergency restrictions Tuesday on smoking along the American River Parkway and barbecuing in all county parks, citing increased fire risks from the ongoing drought.

Smoking will no longer be permitted in nature areas and unpaved trails along the 23-mile American River Parkway. At all county parks, including the parkway, barbecue cookers will be limited to designated picnic areas or beaches, depending on the type of fuel used.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the two ordinances after county parks have experienced 30 fires so far this year, including a 160-acre blaze along the parkway that delayed a Fourth of July celebration at Cal Expo and forced postponement of a Sacramento Republic FC soccer game. Fire officials believe most of the fires are due to human activity.

“The parks facilities continue to become drier and increase our fire risk,” said Sacramento County regional parks director Jeff Leatherman. “This would prevent people from walking to an open space and setting up a barbecue.”

The new rules take effect immediately and come just before the Labor Day holiday, when many Sacramentans are expected to hit county parks for barbecues and parties.

“To me, this is a matter of common sense,” said Supervisor Phil Serna, whose district includes a large swath of the parkway.

Violators can expect to pay a fine of $50 and court fees for the first infraction. Repeated offenses can cost up to $100. Leatherman said rangers will seek to educate before issuing citations.

The drought conditions, along with the dry brush, are creating an environment where fires can grow out of control very quickly. The American River Parkway has borne the brunt of the flames – accounting for 29 of the 30 fires in the county parks system so far. In 2013, the parkway was the site of 64 fires.

Four of the blazes this year were classified as “major” by the Sacramento Fire Department, consuming a total of 235 acres, according to Roberto Padilla, a department spokesman.

Fire officials have been unable to pinpoint the precise cause for most of the blazes, but Padilla said, “these fires are human caused … what we cannot determine is if they are accidental or arson.”

American River Parkway visitors can still smoke on paved trails, levee tops, golf courses and picnic areas.

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American River Drowning Victim ID’d As Bay Area Man

The Sacramento County Coroner’s office said that a man who died in the American River over the weekend was from the Bay Area.

Shane Kilby, 26, of Castro Valley was pulled from the American River by firefighters in the Gilligan’s Island area across from Ancil Hoffman Park Saturday evening and taken to a hospital.

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Lifejacket Thefts Leave American River Drowning Prevention High And Dry

A program meant to save lives is proving too popular, with thieves looting most of the lifejackets meant for children and their families who visit the north and middle forks of the American River.

The Placer Foothills Women’s Club delivered another 48 lifejackets Thursday to the Auburn State Recreation Area, replacing some but not all of 50 to 60 that have gone missing since the start of the summer season.

The lifejackets – free to anyone who needs one – are left on pegs near the river.

The club, which has members from Rocklin to Auburn, buys the lifejackets for $5 each to be placed in several areas of the American River canyon. They can be used for swimming and shoreline activities. Those areas include the confluence, the Quarry Trail leading to the middle fork, near Mountain Quarries Railroad Bridge and Upper Lake Clementine.

Over the past six years, about 600 lifejackets have been donated, with most replacing ones that have been stolen or damaged. On Thursday, club members walked down to a peg board near the confluence that held one remaining lifejacket. On a nearby pole, all hooks were empty. This spring, there were about 20 lifejackets there.

Club member Gail Remington of Auburn said the group looked for a need in the community six years ago and saw a similar program in the Sacramento area. The club has been making regular donations since then and it seems to be helping, she said.

“We don’t have as many drownings and for me, this is the reason,” Remington said.

Remington and other club members removed bright orange lifejackets from boxes and placed them on the hooks, preparing for an influx of park visitors this coming warm weekend and Labor Day weekend.

The club buys the lifejackets “at cost” for $5 apiece and has worked with contractors and lumber suppliers to erect billboard-type signs to install the pegs and hang the life-saving flotation devices.

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Drought Raises Pollution On Folsom Dam Spillway Project This Year

Low water levels at Folsom Lake are causing an increase in air pollution from the $900 million Folsom Dam auxiliary spillway project.

The lake is filled to just 40 percent of capacity, which has allowed construction to proceed without the use of marine excavation equipment this year. The land equipment used instead has emitted more nitrogen oxide, said Katie Huff, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The corps is working with the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation on the project.

Nitrogen oxide is formed by fuel combustion of automobiles, trucks and non-road vehicles like construction equipment.

Studies have linked short-term nitrogen oxide exposure, ranging from 30 minutes to 24 hours, with adverse respiratory effects, including airway inflammation in healthy people and increased respiratory symptoms in people with asthma.

Increased construction this year will cause the project to exceed federal threshold guidelines for nitrogen oxide emissions.

The annual federal threshold for such emissions is 25 tons per year. In 2014, the Folsom Dam Project is expected to emit 31.2 tons.

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Search Teams Find Body Of Folsom Man In American River

Search and rescue teams have recovered the body of a Folsom man who disappeared after his inflatable raft sank while floating Saturday.

Thirty-two-year-old Raymond Nocon was pulled from the South Fork of the American River Monday afternoon, according to the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office. The county coroner will autopsy the body to determine the cause of death.

Nocon was floating with a friend on the river around 9 p.m. when their raft sank, according to the friend.

The friend, who was walking alongside the river the following morning, told a camper what had happened. The camper notified a neighbor and the neighbor contacted the sheriff’s office around 6:30 a.m. Monday.

Deputies responded and after speaking with all involved parties, learned Nocon had disappeared near an area of the river known as Gorilla Rock.

Personnel from the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, El Dorado County Search and Rescue, El Dorado County Parks, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, California State Parks and the California Highway Patrol began searching for Nocon.

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American River Water Flows Cut In Half Due To Hatchery Work

Users of the lower American River will notice a significant drop in the water flow over the next few days as workers at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery complete annual work on the fish weir.

At 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, hatchery workers began installing metal pipes that block fish from proceeding any further up river from the hatchery.

The weir is designed to divert fish into the Nimbus Fish Hatchery during the fall run.

To complete the work, crews have to enter the river at the base of the weir.

Water flowing out of the Nimbus Dam was cut overnight from 1,500 cubic feet per second to 800 to make conditions safer for workers.

The Bureau of Reclamation advised anyone using the river to expect water level fluctuations of as much as eight inches along the shore line during the work.

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American River Metal Debris Study Details Cleanup Costs

Just what to do with hundreds of tons of metal left in the American River after a 1964 bridge washout is still an open question.

But a new report commissioned by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy now has a cleanup plan and an estimated price tag on the work.

The debris from the Highway 49 bridge washout 50 years ago rests downstream from the current Highway 49 bridge – with twisted steel just under the surface of low summer river flows and huge chunks of broken concrete sitting above the shoreline.

Report author David Burns, who is part of a renewed effort to remove dangerous debris from the river, said that while the question of who will pay for the work goes unanswered, the estimated cost to remove all the steel now in the Highway 49 debris field would be about $775,000.

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Drought-Busting El Niño Getting Less Likely

Average sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies (°C) for the week centered on 30 July 2014. Anomalies are computed with respect to the 1981 - 2010 base period weekly means. Photo: NOAA

Average sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies (°C) for the week centered on 30 July 2014. Anomalies are computed with respect to the 1981 – 2010 base period weekly means. Photo: NOAA

The idea of an El Niño rescuing California from its devastating drought appears to be nothing more than wishful fancy.

Not only have climate scientists recently downgraded the strength of a potential El Niño, but a report released Thursday by the U.S. Climate Prediction Center indicates that the odds of an El Niño happening this year at all are down.

An El Niño is the much-watched warming of the Pacific Ocean that tends to influence worldwide weather and has had many in California hoping it will trigger a wet winter for the rain-starved state.

While Thursday’s climate report suggests that an El Niño is still likely, the chances of seeing one this fall or winter dropped from 80 percent – projected in early reports – to 65 percent.

The change, said climate scientist Michelle L’Heureux, comes as the warmer-than-usual surface temperatures observed this spring in the equatorial Pacific have cooled.

The same underwater swell that pushed heat to the surface, known as a Kelvin Wave, is having its normal counter effect, but that effect has been much stronger than usual and has moved more cold water up than expected, L’Heureux explained.

“We’re still banking on seeing a reinvigoration of El Niño,” she noted. “But with that said, we wanted to lower our projections because there are structural weaknesses that have made this El Niño less likely.”

The federal forecast calls for the El Niño to be weak or moderate. The consensus earlier this year was that the event would be at least of moderate strength – and some believed it would be really strong.

In Northern California, strong El Niño’s have correlated with wet winters. San Francisco’s biggest rain year in the last century came during the big 1997-98 El Niño.

Weak and moderate El Niño’s, however, haven’t translated into significant rain years in Northern California. (Southern California has sometimes seen wetter weather during moderate and weak events.)

The absence of a strong El Niño doesn’t sentence Northern California to a dry winter.

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