Category Archives: Boating

Snow survey reveals CA water content at 185% of average

The Sierra snowpack survey conducted Wednesday revealed that the northern Sierra water content is well above average for this time of the year and bodes well for runoff later in the year.

Numbers manually taken by water officials at the Phillips Station in El Dorado County revealed 43.4 inches of water content, which is 179 percent of the long-term average for March 1, and a snow-depth of 112.7 inches.

The water content did not break the record of 56.4 inches for that station, but Frank Gehrke, of the California Department of Water Resources, said it is “a pretty phenomenal snowpack.”

“It bodes very well for runoff much longer than we have had in the past four or five years,” Gehrke said. “It’s a very, very good indicator of good surface water supplies as we head into spring and summer.

As of March 1:

  • The northern Sierra is 159 percent of average.
  • The central Sierra is 190 percent of average.
  • The southern Sierra is 201 percent of average.

The central and southern regions are tracking “very close” to 1983, which is when the maximum snowpack was recorded statewide.

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Dam manuals keep California’s water future in the past

“Sacramentans will recall how the operators of the Folsom Lake dam dumped billions of gallons of water last year at this time into the American River, never mind that the region was gripped by drought and a heat wave. The reservoir was down to 40 percent of capacity, under clear skies. But dam operators had no choice.”

The Oroville Dam crisis was about infrastructure. The scare this week stemmed from rickety spillways, not dam management.

But if other aspects seemed familiar, it may be because it again highlighted the gap between modern science and the antique flood-control manuals governing major dams in California. As The Bee’s Ryan Sabalow and Andy Furillo reported, the guiding document determining how full Lake Oroville can be in a rainy season hasn’t been updated since the Nixon administration, and is almost as old as the dam itself.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manual, they reported, was last revised in 1970, two years after Oroville Dam’s completion. A lot can change in 47 years.

Science has advanced, in meteorology and engineering. Weather satellites, computer models and research into atmospheric rivers have made it possible to forecast storms with an accuracy previously unimagined. Climate change has upended assumptions.

Two of the biggest floods ever to hit the region have occurred since the Oroville Dam manual was written; on its sepia pages, it’s as if they never happened. The story is the same for all 54 of the state’s primary flood-control dams, whose manuals are 30 years old or older.

“California’s flood infrastructure is based on the hydrology of the past,” Jeffrey Mount of the Public Policy Institute of California told The Bee. “I don’t know a scientist anymore who thinks the future is going to look anything like the past.”

This isn’t just some clerical issue. The owners of those 54 dams cannot deviate from the manuals’ old models in determining water levels. That inflexibility has become a problem in both wet and dry years.

Sacramentans will recall how the operators of the Folsom Lake dam dumped billions of gallons of water last year at this time into the American River, never mind that the region was gripped by drought and a heat wave. The reservoir was down to 40 percent of capacity, under clear skies. But dam operators had no choice.

The installation of a new spillway at Folsom this year has triggered an update, finally, to its manual. Oroville’s problems, and ensuing repairs, could eventually mean a new and improved manual for it, too.

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Folsom Lake is filling fast so flows on swollen American River have been ratcheted up

With heavy rain forecast for Thursday, room is being made in Folsom Lake by increasing flows into the American River.

In about two days, the lake level has climbed 230,000 acre feet. Folsom Lake, with a capacity of 977,000 acre feet, is around 696,000 acre feet Thursday morning.

A strong storm on Thursday is expected to drop an inch or two of rain in Sacramento and perhaps four inches in the foothills. That has prompted Folsom Dam operators to increase flows.

About 40,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) was being released about 7 p.m. Wednesday. As of 4 a.m. Thursday the amount of water from Folsom Dam had been increased to 58,000 cfs.

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Heavy snowpack looks good for Folsom Lake

A whopping Sierra snowpack now could mean great boating and water skiing on Folsom Lake this summer.

The state’s official snow survey last week showed the Sierra snowpack is at 173 percent of its early February average.

That means, come summer, steady snowmelt should keep Folsom at relatively high levels.

So tune up the outboard motor and break out the water skis: It’s likely to be a very watery summer.

“We should see strong runoff into Folsom through the summer months,” said Louis Moore, deputy public information officer for the Bureau of Reclamation in Sacramento. “Typically, August is the month with the highest levels at Folsom.”

Recently, the lake held 407,000 acre feet; the maximum capacity is 977,000 acre feet. Dam operators are making sure there is plenty of space for incoming rain and snow runoff from the current storm systems.

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Folsom Lake less than half full after recent rains. Residents ask, why so dry?

Northern California is on track to break rainfall records. Water has gushed through weirs into the Yolo Bypass flood plain at levels not seen in more than a decade. The Sierra Nevada snow pack is nearly double historical averages.

But you wouldn’t know the region has experienced an exceptionally wet winter looking at the steep, dry shores ringing the Sacramento region’s largest reservoir, Folsom Lake. On Wednesday, the lake was filled to just 41 percent capacity – 80 percent of its historical average.

Folsom Dam operators say the low levels are necessary to protect Sacramento from flooding. With runoff from recent storms subsiding and forecasts of sunny skies through early next week, dam operators are gradually dialing back releases into the lower American River below Folsom Dam. That should allow the lake to rise again.

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Folsom Lake rises 5 feet in 24 hours

The American River water level will continue to rise Thursday as operators have begun increasing water releases through Nimbus Dam.

The first gate at the dam opened at 7:30 a.m., releasing 5,000 cubic feet per second of water downstream.

“Been such a long time since the drought started. It’s a treat to see,” said Glen Lutz who came to watch the gates open.

Throughout the day, the water releases were scheduled to increase steadily.

At 2 p.m., the flow was set to increase to 10,000 c.f.s. according to the California Date Exchange Center.

The releases come as Folsom Lake continues to rise following the recent rain and snow.

Between Wednesday morning and Thursday morning, the lake rose roughly five feet.

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Water Releases Lowered Following Days of Dangerous American River Levels

The Bureau of Reclamation lowered water releases from Folsom reservoir after several days of high-water flows that resulted in several river rescues along the lower American River.

“As of noon we’ve lowered releases from 36,000 to 30,000 cubic feet per second,” said Louis Moore, spokesperson for the federal agency.

Less than a week ago flows were at just 1,200 cubic feet per second. Large inflows from Folsom’s 1,800 square mile watershed forced the releases by federal water regulators who have to reserve 40 percent of the space reservoir to protect against sudden surges of water from large storms.

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Folsom Lake water release going into rising American River

Water releases out of Folsom Lake were doubled Tuesday morning after weekend rains increased the inflows into the lake, according to the Bureau of Reclamation.

The outflows via Folsom Dam were increased from 3,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 6,000 cfs, with the flows expected to sprawl downstream into the low-lying areas, as opposed to the American River rising, the bureau said. The initial plan was to increase the outflow by up to 8,000 cfs by Thursday, but it may increase to as high at 15,000 cfs.

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Folsom Lake Level Far Ahead of Last Year

Folsom Lake level continues to rise.

Per the California Department of Water Resources, as of November 27, the lake stands at approximately 447,000 acre feet, about 3 times as much as last year at this time.

Although it is still 5% below the average for this time of year, note that usually we’re still losing water, with levels decreasing through late December. This year, the level has been growing since mid-October.

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Witnesses say man intentionally sunk his pickup in the Sacramento River.

Kevin DeLano said he was taking his lunchtime jog along the American River Parkway north of Old Sacramento on Tuesday when he saw a man drive a blue Chevy pickup over the bike trail and to the edge of the steep levee along the Sacramento River.

Just before the truck plunged over, the man got out and walked away, leaving it to roll into the water.

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