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Efforts underway to divert water ahead of summer snowmelt

Kern River Intertie
Posted at 4:26 PM, May 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-23 19:40:53-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — After several weeks of heavy storms across the state, communities are still managing the influx of water to rivers, lakes, and levees.

Kern County Fire Chief Aaron Duncan provided the Kern County Board of Supervisors with the latest on our water status. Duncan shared outflows from Lake Isabella Dam are the highest seen in recent months, with the lakefill sitting at around 69%.

“We’re starting to see the melt occur from 8,500 to 9,000," Duncan said.

According to Duncan, The Lake Isabella Dam's current capacity increased around 9% since his last update. Currently it's sitting at around 385,000 acre-feet.

Snowmelt over the last few weeks was below 8,500 feet, according to Duncan. Temperatures are expected to begin increasing over the next two weeks, and with them comes greater snowmelt. Duncan said by this summer, inflow peaks could reach up to 14,000.

This expected increase of snowmelt is why Kern County Fire and other officials are actively working to prepared communities who are at risk for potential flooding. These areas include Goodmanville, Chocktaw, and around Manor Road.

“We’ve held community meetings in those areas, we’ve put over 100 firefighters in those communities, helping them build individual flood plan preparation for each property," Duncan said.

To help mitigate potential flooding, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers agreed to increase the lake’s output to 7,500 cubic feet per second (cfs) in order to create more storage room for snowmelt. The Kern County Water Master also agreed to activate the rarely-used Kern River Intertie for the first time since 2006.

The intertie will not only assist water storage for Kern County, but offer much needed relief to the Central Valley by diverting water away from the Tulare Lake Basin.

“Kern River Water Master will let us know if we need to take additional water or if we’re going to hold like 500 cfs," said Daniel Wisheropp, Senior Environmental Scientist Specialist for the Department of Water Resources. "That way there's not too much water in the Intertie Basin.”

Currently, 500 cfs are flowing into the aqueduct. If needed, the Water Master could increase that to 1,000 cfs by the end of the month.