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.
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.
Folsom Lake continues to rise with the weekend’s rains, despite water managers releasing even more water downstream.
Folsom Lake stands at 422 feet.
The lake is up 13 feet since Sunday.
Releases at Nimbus Dam have doubled.
As of 5 a.m. Monday, Folsom Lake’s water level stood at 422 feet elevation, which is 13.5 feet higher than it was 5 hours earlier.
The Bureau of Reclamation is getting ahead of this weekend’s storm by incrementally releasing 3,500 cubic feet of water per second to 15,000 cubic feet per second below the Nimbus Dam to manage potential Sierra runoff.
“The reservoir can come up quite quickly,” said Louis Moore, deputy of public affairs with the bureau. “So we’re making some adjustments today to increase our releases to accommodate that new water coming.”
With this super soaker expected to drench Northern California, water levels will no doubt rise.
“A lot of that water is going to affect the local areas, and you will see the rivers rise based on all that runoff and drainage into those rivers,” Moore said.
This storm has also prompted Sacramento County Regional Parks to close areas like the American and Dry Creek parkways along with the Sacramento and American Rivers.
Douglas Lewis had just taken a picture of the coyote and was on his way out of the Folsom State Recreation Area when, he said, he heard the gunshot that killed the animal.
The coyote had been living in the area for at least four years and had never seemed threatening, Lewis said. But it did seem like it was becoming less fearful of people, park regulars and rangers said, which made officials nervous because picnicking families use the recreation area.
“My friends and I used to see him at Lake Natoma … it’s a sanctuary,” Lewis said. “He’s there in the summer, in the winter, it doesn’t matter. It was like that was his little hide-out.”
A wildlife specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture killed the coyote Dec. 22. The animal was not trapped and relocated because California trapping laws and regulations require a trapped animal to be either killed or released immediately.
“Once a coyote gets habituated, it loses its fear of people,” said USDA Wildlife Services spokeswoman Pamela Manns. Such a lack of fear, she said, “could lead to potential conflicts between coyotes and people.”