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KCFD, Caltrans rely on experience and expertise to prepare for spring melt

Kern Fire Captain Andrew Freeborn says county agencies are working together to prepare for the melt of this year's 300 percent snowpack.
California Water Snow Survey
Posted at 4:50 PM, Apr 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-26 21:05:49-04

LAKE ISABELLA, Calif. (KERO) — As springtime temperatures rise, it brings the potential for increased snow melt, which may cause some concern for flooding. On Wednesday, Kern County officials met with a flood fight specialist to prepare for potential flooding scenarios.

"If there is a worst-case scenario and the waterways are overrun with water, how are we ensuring in advance that we are prepared for that?" said Kern County Fire Captain Andrew Freeborn. "That's why we also bring subject matter experts, like a flood fight specialist, to help us in our planning efforts for those sort of circumstances."

Captain Freeborn says that as a part of flood prevention measures, there will be an analysis of low-lying areas and levees. The Department of Water Resources is also working on providing the county with inundation maps.

"Still hoping that soon we will get the simulated inundation maps, and that, more or less, is if all of these measures that are taking place right now amongst all of these water agencies, if these steps are overwhelmed with a certain amount of water, what will that then look like, and what is the appropriate response for that?" said Freeborn.

The inundation maps are created by gathering information from multiple agencies.

"They work with the National Weather Service for snowpack. They work with our local water agencies. They work with the Army Corps of Engineers," Freeborn said.

Caltrans also plays a part in this, and Caltrans Public Information Officer Christian Lukens says they will be monitoring the roads and looking for any damage.

"The area we are looking at is essentially the Kern Canyon, State Route 178 through the mouth of the canyon to Bodfish," said Lukens.

Lukens adds that Caltrans projects over the last few years have added flooding protections.

"There have been projects in recent years that have helped reinforce sections of the Kern River area that had erosion previously," Lukens said. "It's going to be a test to make sure that those hold up."

The Army Corps of Engineers is temporarily stopping the flow of water from the Lake Isabella Dam on Thursday to open the gates of the hydropower plant fully.

"They are doing this operation to gain greater control of how the water is released from the Lake Isabella reservoir," said Freeborn.

Freeborn stressed that there is no reason to panic about the upcoming snow melt.

"We've been behind the scenes on this for over a month, right?" said Freeborn. "This isn't something that is going to be a knee-jerk reaction."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers discourages any activity around the Kern River during this time due to the rapidly fluctuating water levels. Remember: Stay out. Stay alive.


According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the amount of water being stored behind the Isabella Dam is just over 303,000 acre-feet of water as of Tuesday, April 25.

The week before, the lake was at just over 290,000 acre-feet, and the highest point the water reached this month was recorded on April 1, when the lake was at nearly 340,000 acre-feet.

The maximum capacity of the dam is 568,000 acre-feet.