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Folsom Lake nears max capacity

By: Bill Sullivan, Associate Publisher
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After a record season of rainfall and an abundant snowpack thereafter, Folsom Lake is rapidly reaping the benefits. As of press time Tuesday, the lake that looked like a mere puddle just months ago, had reached its highest level of the year, nearing its capacity by single digits.

As of  press time on Tuesday, Folsom Lake’s capacity had reached 943,677 acre feet, according to the California Department of Water Resources. The most recent readings show the reservoir just three percent from capacity and 115 percent of the historical average for this period, which was previously recorded at 819,034 acre feet. The total capacity of Folsom Lake is 977,000 acre feet.

So far in June, the Folsom Dam has been operating continued releases with as many as five upper flood gates flowing at one time, day and night. Tuesday, inflow into Folsom was measured at 11,069 cubic feet per second. The current release was reportedly producing an outflow of 12,573 CFS, with 4,877 of that designated for power usage and 7,696 for river spillage. 

The current level of Folsom Lake has exceeded its previous high point that was reached in 1978, but has yet to reach the high point it reached in 1983, one of the wettest winters in recent history that was comparable to that of 2016-2017. At 97 percent of capacity, the lake is just three feet from reaching its peak elevation.

In the years that Folsom Lake has reached its capacity, the event has routinely occurred in early June. Currently sitting at 97 percent, it is expected that Folsom Lake will put 2017 in the history books this coming week. Reaching the capacity mark is something local officials are waiting for as it will assist with ongoing clean up efforts.

Once the lake reaches its much-anticipated capacity, the clean up efforts will become much more manageable. Debris that is currently filling the shallow waters of the lake will become parked on the shoreline when the waters undergo their first recession of the season.

Over the last three weeks, contractors have been working to remove the large amounts of debris from the waters of Folsom Lake by means of a virtual logging operation. Large tractors and loaders continue to work on the shorelines while tugboats continue to operate in the waters working to corral the logjams for collection. The clean up was originally estimated to be completed by Memorial Day weekend, but due to the abundance of debris it is continuing daily.

“There’s obviously a large quantity of it,” said Ryan Steele, peace officer supervisor of the California Department of Parks and Recreation. “Fortunately, there haven’t been any major boat accidents as a result of the driftwood.”

The largest clean up effort has been on the Granite Bay side of the lake. Workers have been using five percent cove as a work area to corral the debris. Workers are active in other areas as well, including Brown’s Ravine where nets are being used to contain the incoming debris and keep them away from boats in the marina.

As the waters rise to record levels at Folsom Lake, so does attendance to the area. Park officials have seen a rise in boaters, swimmers and onlookers over the recent week. Officials want to remind everyone to take proper safety measures when enjoying the high lake level. With the majority of the watershed being produced from snowmelt, the waters are extremely cold while river currents are higher than normal with the required releases taking place.