Since the end of February, USACE has modified reservoir operations at Prado and Whittier Narrows Dams to help local agencies maximize ground water recharge. Storms that swept across California Feb. 28 - March 1, provided short term relief, but 95 percent of the state remains in drought (Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture Drought Monitor).
Due to the California Drought State of Emergency, USACE deviated from the normal seasonal flood releases at Prado and Whittier Narrows Dams to help local agencies maximize ground water capture.
“USACE will continue to support the state of California and do all we can within our authorities to help mitigate the drought,” said Brig. Gen. David Turner, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers South Pacific Division. “I’ve spoken with California’s Emergency Management Agency Director and his message is clear: ‘Every drop of water counts.’”
By carefully controlling release rates, the Orange County Water District and the Los Angeles County Flood Control District were able to capture more than 22,000 acre feet of water in downstream spreading basins. Each district conserved approximately 11,000 acre feet.
While recent California rains are welcome, they fell far short of a March miracle necessary to alleviate the state’s third year of drought. The state of California reports that late February rains brought the snowpack up to the 1976-1977 level. Those two consecutive years of extremely low statewide precipitation were ranked among the five lowest ever recorded in California history.
USACE continues to evaluate opportunities to modify reservoir operations and to coordinate with agencies that have interests in how the California projects are operated (e.g., Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Water Resources and local water conservation agencies).
On the Russian River, USACE is working with the Redwood Valley County Water Agency (RVCWA) to prevent water service disruptions to more than 4,000 residents and 2,200 acres of farmland. USACE and RVCWA have placed a platform at Lake Mendocino to connect a submersible pump to the water supply intake for Redwood Valley.
Effects of the drought will be felt differently around the state. USACE is prepared to work with the state of California and local water agencies to address drought issues.
USACE is reviewing the Russian River Flood Control and Water Conservation Improvement District’s formal deviation request to store more water to lessen drought impacts on communities, businesses and farmers in the future. The Corps is reviewing to see if the deviation may be accomplished safely, because safety is our number one priority.