The most obvious conclusion to a lack of water in a water-rich region is to capture it in wet years to prepare for the dry ones, a simple concept the Sacramento Bee has apparently not yet figured out—though some of the commenters have—as this article reveals.
Water levels in Folsom Lake and the American River this fall will drop to levels not seen in five years as California verges on another extended drought period.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Folsom Dam, estimates the lake will fall to a storage level of 241,000 acre-feet by December. That is about one-fourth of total capacity.
The lake has not reached such lows since December 2008, the last extended drought period, when it fell to as low as 199,000 acre-feet.
Already, boat owners at Folsom Lake Marina face an Aug. 3 deadline to vacate their berths. The floating docks will be resting on the lake bed by then, when the storage level reaches 412,000 acre-feet, said the marina’s manager, Ken Christensen.
It won’t be long after that, he added, that a lakewide 5 mph speed limit will be imposed for safety. Though not unprecedented, these early restrictions on the lake are a convincing sign that dry times are at hand.
In an average water year, boats don’t have to be hauled out of slips at the marina until Oct. 1.
“We are dropping about three-quarters of a foot a day,” Christensen said. “It hurts business all around. We’ve got a lot of restaurants that depend on the public coming out and using the lake. We’ve seen a big drop in day use.”
A shrunken lake also means less water to maintain flows in the American River. By October, the Bureau of Reclamation estimates, flows will drop to about 1,000 cubic feet per second, or about one-third of where they are today.
Similar concerns are developing at reservoirs across the state, including Shasta Lake. The bureau recently received approval from the state to modify protections for salmon in the Sacramento River to preserve as much cold water behind the dam as possible.
But Folsom Dam is in an especially precarious situation, because the American River watershed received even less snowfall last winter than the Shasta watershed.