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Tulare Lake Stirs

Flood Releases Help Kings Irrigation Districts Recharge

January 15,2017-

Screen Shot 2017-01-15 at 8.39.04 AMLast weekend’s warm rains were felt up to the 9500ft elevation and local rivers became torrents of runoff. The Kaweah River  flow climbed to 20,000cfs, below flood stage, but enough to get your attention. Watermaster on the Kaweah, Mark Larsen, says uncontrolled streams like Dry Creek,Deer Creek and White River added enough volume for water to reach their ancient destination – the old Tulare lakebed in Kings County.
“After all these years of drought, this good rainfall is a tremendous opportunity across the basin” says Larsen, the general manager of Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District (KDWCD).
Local Irrigation districts and farmers are buoyed this year by widespread precipitation volumes statewide so far this water year, enabling surplus water to reach even this  typically parched part of California.The state’s Northern California Precipitation Index is nearly 200% of average so far this water-year with our own San Joaquin Index not far behind as is the Tulare Basin Index.  Amazingly, all are on a pace of being the wettest year ever!
“We wish more of it would fall as snow but after so many years of drought we are not going to complain.”
Adding to the flows this winter is the fact that water is being released from both Lake Kaweah and Success Lake by the Army Corp in recent days to make room for more storms to come. Lake Success of course is mandated to keep its storage down to satisfy safety concerns.
But Lower Tule ID is gladly taking flood releases to replenish parched groundwater levels says manager Dan Vink – using new flexibility rules that allow more water exchanges.
And there is more.
Mark Larsen says Friant contractors like KDWCD and Tulare ID will be taking flood release water from Friant Dam coming down the Friant Kern Canal soon – perhaps in the 10,000 acre-feet range – to be imported and run down area channels eventually heading to Tulare Lake.
“We haven’t seen this much water to replenish the system since 2011” says Larsen. That includes the lakebed area, “the lower part of the river system that in all the drought years, has suffered the most.”he maintains.
Larsen claims that a more cooperative attitude from the federal Bureau of Reclamation that started earlier last year, has made a difference.
Now with prospects for more surplus stream and surface water being brought in from the Friant Kern, local reservoir releases and even northern California water “we are getting calls from Kings County irrigation districts who are pretty excited about getting more water.” reports Larsen.
Both Corcoran Irrigation District and Lakeside ID have made requests to KDWCD for more water” says Larsen, that will be put to good use now – either turning off the pumps to use now, for short term storage for spring irrigation or for long term groundwater storage.
It’s been a long while since Tulare Lake has made any kind of appearance. But this year she is stirring with the rest of January looking wet. Tulare Lake Basin is the name given to our part of the San Joaquin Valley from Fresno to the base of the the Tehachapis that drains four larger rivers – the Kings, Kaweah, Tule and Kern. In big runoff years like this one the dams built on each of the rivers just can’t contain the Sierra runoff and the old lakebed comes alive. Once the largest body of fresh water west of the Mississippi there were times this part of Kings County became beachfront property and you could not see across it.

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