As American River Parkway remains flooded, residents seek higher ground for exercise

With the popular American River Parkway mostly underwater, local residents accustomed to exercising along the waterway will have to find alternate routes for the second straight weekend.

The next major downpour is expected to hit the region Monday, giving people who don’t mind cloudy skies and a light drizzle a chance to get outside before the next downpour.

Amy Rihel, training coordinator for Fleet Feet Sports, said it’s been challenging for runners accustomed to using the parkway to find places to get in their miles.

“We’ve been in this pickle in the last couple of weeks on where to take our groups,” Rihel said. “Land Park has been kind of a lifeline.”

Depending on the desired distance, McKinley Park and Land Park can be big enough to avoid boredom while running loops this Presidents Day weekend, she said, though some of the dirt paths are muddy. The paved trail around North Natomas Regional Park is approximately 2.5 miles, so “even if you’re doing long distance, it doesn’t get too crazy like you’re going in circles all the time,” she said.

Rihel recommended the greenbelt in the Pocket neighborhood, the Clarksburg Branch Pedestrian and Bike Trail in West Sacramento and the Sacramento River Parkway. The last one is not as maintained as the American River Parkway but it’s paved and “you can get some decent mileage on that,” she said.

For people willing to drive, Rihel suggested heading out to the Auburn and Folsom Lake state recreation areas.

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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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Crews rescue people from American River as water levels rise

Five people were rescued from the American River in the Sacramento area within four hours Thursday night, the Sacramento Fire Department said.

Officials increased flows out of Folsom and Nimbus dams Thursday afternoon, increasing water levels on the American River.

Around 6:10 p.m., crews rescued a man who was trapped on an island under the Highway 160 overpass at Del Paso Boulevard. He was taken to the hospital to get treatment.

A second person was rescued from the water at Del Paso Boulevard, the fire department tweeted around 7:10 p.m.

By 8:15 p.m., two more people were rescued from another island in the American River. The people were near Cal Expo at Ethan Avenue.

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High water levels prompt closure of American River Parkway access points

As runoff gushes into Folsom and Shasta lakes, officials have increased flows down the American and Sacramento rivers, prompting safety warnings for those using the waterways for recreation.

As of 10 a.m. Thursday, the amount of water from Folsom Dam was at 70,000 cubic feet of water per second, according to the bureau. That’s the highest rate of water released this season, based on state data.

High river levels prompted the closure Thursday of all American River Parkway vehicle access points, according to county spokeswoman Kim Nava. Pedestrian access points will close Friday as well, and it remains to be seen when they will reopen.

“People recreating in or along the lower American River downstream of Folsom Dam to the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers can expect river levels to increase and should take appropriate safety precautions,” the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said in a news release.

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

A strong storm on Thursday was expected to drop an inch or two of rain in Sacramento and perhaps four inches in the foothills. The warm nature of the storm has resulted in heavy runoff from the Sierra.

While 70,000 cfs was going out of Folsom Lake on Thursday, 114,000 was flowing into the reservoir.

The American River is expected to reach depths of 37.6 feet at the H Street Bridge – the highest it has been since the floods of 1997. It will remain about four feet below flood stage.

Several access points along the swollen American River are closed. Discovery Park is flooded.

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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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Rockslide closes Lake Natoma bike trail

Rain and wind over the weekend caused a rock slide on the American River Bike Trail near Lake Natoma.

The portion of the trail at the slide, about 100 yeards southwest of Negro Bar on Lake Natoma, is closed, according to Stephen Green, president of Save the American River Association.

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Storms transform drought-thirsty California

It’s no secret California has suffered from a historic drought that has affected many of the state’s largest lakes and waterways.

However, recent storms and the precipitation they left have underscored just how significant an impact the drought has had on the thirsty state.

Here in Sacramento, Folsom Lake’s water level saw a drastic transformation, increasing to more than 560,000 acre-feet from lower than 200,000 AF in 2015.

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Folsom Lake rises 13+ feet

Folsom Lake continues to rise with the weekend’s rains, despite water managers releasing even more water downstream.

FAST FACTS:

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.

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