Storage at New Melones Reservoir has dropped below 400,000 acre feet for the first time since 1991.
The reservoir — the fourth largest in the state is now at less than 17 percent of capacity with expectations it will slip below 80,000 acre feet by Sept. 30.
The 2.4 million acre foot capacity reservoir on the Stanislaus River is in the worst shape of all of the state’s major reservoirs that capture the lions; share of the Sierra snowpack melt.
The water level would be even lower today if it hadn’t been for heavier than normal May snowfall that capped the end of a severely dry winter.
Starting today, workers at the Glory Hole Marina — the last remaining business on the lake will; pull up anchor to move to deeper water.
The dropping water has uncovered the old Parrots Ferry Bridge that was used as the staging area for protestors who helped several people chain themselves to rocks in a bid to prevent the Bureau of Reclamation form filling up the reservoir in the 1980s. You can now float under the old bridge.
As the lake recedes and the natural river reclaims the lake bed, there is a possibility that what was considered “an incredible whitewater stretch” could be restored. It wouldn’t happen this winter and it would only occur if big storms first flushed silt buildup downstream.
The lake is being prevented from completely disappearing thanks to releases from the Tri-Dam Project reservoirs at Donnells and Beardsley that feed captured runoff into New Melones for distribution to cities and farmers served y the South San Joaquin irrigation District and Oakdale Irrigation District.
When the water level is around 400,000 acre-feet, power operations are suspended to make low level releases. This solution is effective until the layer of cold water above the old dam runs out. Suspending power operations reduces revenues from the project. The estimated loss from suspended power operations during the fall of 1994 was over $200,000.