While typically the water flow in the Stanislaus River slows during the summer, that’s not likely to happen this year, so recreational users of the river are urged to observe safety precautions to avoid tragedy.
Why is the river running so high?
Oakdale Irrigation District Manager Steve Knell explained, “Call it an unexpected condition of an unexpected runoff year but over-commitment of water in Shasta and Folsom Dams, both federal facilities, and in Oroville Dam, a state facility, in the spring have stressed those facilities and necessitated the unprecedented call for water out of New Melones.”
And what does that mean? In a nutshell, it means New Melones is being called upon to backfill a good portion of water that Shasta, Folsom and Oroville should be releasing during this summer to the delta, Knell said.
By New Melones releasing water that these dams should be supplying, Shasta, Folsom and Oroville can save their water for the fall to protect up-river migrating salmon runs and protection of Municipal and Industrial (M&I) water for the Sacramento metropolitan area.
“Both OID and SSJID are not happy with this turn of events and the lack of coordination by Reclamation in not informing OID and SSJID on this unprecedented use of New Melones storage,” Knell said. “We recognize these are unusual events but to diminish the storage in New Melones leaves many questions on how this may be a liability should the drought continue for another year or two. It’s concerning and we are watching this closely.”
While the issue is alarming for water districts, it creates a potentially dangerous situation for those who are accustomed to slower flows during the hottest summer months.
Life preservers are recommended for all ages of recreational river users to avoid a potential tragedy.