Water & Drought

Feds sharply increase flows from Folsom Lake

Video: Wet winter refilling Folsom Lake

The California drought drove water levels to historic lows at Folsom Lake, but a wet winter is helping to refill the body of water.
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The California drought drove water levels to historic lows at Folsom Lake, but a wet winter is helping to refill the body of water.

Just two months after Folsom Lake hit historically low depths, federal officials have increased water releases from the lake for flood control.

Folsom Lake has filled up at a near-unprecedented pace since early December, thanks to rain, snow and what had been a sharp curtailment on water releases because the drought had left the reservoir severely depleted. In recent weeks, regular rainfall and runoff from higher-than-average Sierra snowfall helped return the reservoir to above-average levels for this time of year.

Under long-standing federal guidelines, dam operators will now start releasing water to create “safe space” for potential winter storms that could create flooding. The guidelines state that Folsom Lake can’t contain more than 577,000 acre-feet of water in early February. As of 11 a.m. Friday, the lake stood at 581,000 acre-feet. The reservoir’s capacity is roughly 977,000 acre-feet.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials said they would increase water releases from Folsom Lake on Friday from 800 cubic feet per second to 1,750 cubic feet per second. That will mean significantly faster water flows on the lower American River.

While Folsom reservoir has returned to healthy levels, the larger reservoirs in the state’s massive water delivery network have not. Shasta, Trinity and Oroville reservoirs remain below normal levels, and state officials caution California’s drought, now in its fifth year, is not over.

No significant rain is forecast for the next week in Northern California, according to the National Weather Service.

Phillip Reese: 916-321-1137, @PhillipHReese

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