EBMUD releases from Camanche to offset snow melt
In an effort to offset the rapidly melting snow pack, the East Bay Municipal Utility District is releasing water from the Camanche Dam.
The district has been releasing additional water from the dam for a couple of days now, said Nelsy Rodriguez, EBMUD public affairs representative.
As of Thursday, EBMUD was releasing at a rate 2,530 cubic feet per second, she said.
“We’ve got a lot of snow that is melting right now,” she said. “In March, it was reported that the water content in the snow in California’s snow pack was at 185 percent of average.”
The release will cause river levels to rise and water to move at a faster rate.
Woodbridge Dam is prepared to accommodate the high water levels, said Andy Christensen, manager of the Woodbridge Irrigation District.
“Our dam adjusts automatically and we’ll be able to maintain a stable lake elevation here,” he said.
However, flows are getting high enough that growers along the Mokelumne River may be flooded again, he added.
The Camanche Dam is a flood control dam and its main purpose is to prevent flooding, Rodriguez said.
“Without the Camanche Dam there, those properties would be flooded all the time because there would be nothing holding back the tremendous amount of water that is coming off of the mountains,” she said. “I know it’s a hardship for property owners in the area, so we do our best to let them know when we make these releases. Without the dam and the coordinated scheduled releases, those properties would be flooded regularly.”
Property owners along the river receive an automatic phone message from EBMUD and other water districts releasing around the river to let them know how much water they will be releasing, Rodriguez said.
“This is something that they deal with every summer,” she said. “In the summer the winter snow melts, and that’s how we refill our reservoirs, so this is something that they are aware of.”
With the higher levels, Christensen advises people to use extreme caution when on the river. Kayakers and others on the river should stay away from Woodbridge Dam because the velocities are higher there, he said.
Everyone on the river should wear a life jacket at all times, Woodbridge Fire District Chief Steve Butler warned.
“Anybody who’s going to be in the water needs to have their life jackets on. I cant’s stress that enough,” Butler said.
Alcohol consumption and not wearing a life jacket are the two main factors that contribute to drowning, he said.
Luckily, the salmon that grow up and lay eggs in the river won’t be affected by the high waters. It might help them move along better, Christensen said.
He anticipates the river levels will go back down soon.
“Within two weeks or so they’ll probably be coming back down again,” he said. “I have no control of when they’ll be coming down. I’m just guessing after two weeks things are going to be looking a lot different.”
The current release from Camanche is smaller than releases earlier this year, Rodriguez said. During the winter months, EBMUD releasing 5,000 cubic feet per second.
“We’re just coming out of a drought so compared to last year it’s much more water,” Rodriguez said.
At this time last year, EBMUD’s total system storage was 662,000 acre-feet. This year, the system is at 738,000 acre feet.
“We do have more water in storage because we’re coming out of a drought and we had the wettest winter in California history. We are now moving the water that has been stored in the snow on our mountains into the reservoir and downstream so that other water districts that pull from the Mokelumne River can pull their water, and so that we can continue to feed the rivers for the ecosystem’s health.”
This year highlights the extreme shifts in weather that are common in the state, she said.
“We have had the longest drought in California history, followed by the wettest winter in reported California history, so we went from one extreme to the other,” she said.
Water churns at Woodbridge Dam in Woodbridge on Thursday.