Business

Monday, Apr 29 2013 04:59 PM

Kern watershed runoff just a trickle of normal

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    By Casey Christie /The CalifornianThe lower portion of the Kern River flows down the canyon Tuesday. We may be on target to break a 120 year old record for the driest year on the Kern River. The upper Kern River may already have peaked at 1000cfs. But the river is projected to run at no more than 450 (cfs) cubic feet per second during those months, making it unboatable, according to rafting companies. It is currently running at 420 cfs.

    Casey Christie /The CalifornianThe lower portion of the Kern River flows down the canyon Tuesday. We may be on target to break a 120 year old record for the driest year on the Kern River. The upper Kern River may already have peaked at 1000cfs. But the river is projected to run at no more than 450 (cfs) cubic feet per second during those months, making it unboatable, according to rafting companies. It is currently running at 420 cfs.

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    By Casey Christie /The Californian

    Although the water level of isabella Lake is very low right now, Oildale resident Larry Michael came to the lake to spend the day fishing from the windy shores near Mountain Mesa. He said he wasn't surprised at the lake level because he had been watching the news and was prepared.

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    By Casey Christie /The Californian

    A tube fisherman casts his line (center left) in Isabella Lake in the Kissack Bay area Tuesday morning.

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    By Casey Christie /The Californian

    A tube fisherman tries his luck fishing Tuesday morning in the Kissack Bay area of Isabella Lake. Locals and tourists alike are concerned about the future of the lake and the economy of the area.

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    By Casey Christie /The Californian

    The lower portion of the Kern River flows down the canyon Tuesday. We may be on target to break a 120-year-old record for the driest year on the Kern River. The upper Kern River may already have peaked at 1000cfs.

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    By Casey Christie /The Californian

    Dry grass already surrounds the lower Kern River in this April 2013 photo.

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By The Bakersfield Californian

This year is shaping up to among the driest in more than a century for the Kern River.

"Historic is the nicest way to put it," said Tom Moore, owner of Sierra South Mountain Sports in Kernville.

The driest year on record for the Kern River was 1961 when the river flowed into Lake Isabella at 19 percent of normal.

The latest survey reported inflow as 20 percent of normal.

If the area experiences below-normal rainfall in the next few months, inflow could be the lowest in the 120 years records have been kept on the Kern.

Ag interests in the San Joaquin Valley that rely on the river are all bracing for a hard irrigation season, particularly as state allocations have dropped to 35 percent of contracted amounts and federal allocations have dropped to 50 percent.

"We're relying almost exclusively on groundwater wells this year," said Richard Diamond, general manager of North Kern Water Storage District.

Last year was fairly dry, he said. But this year's lack of moisture has created "a pretty bad situation."

It's the same up and down the state.

Snow surveys have reported snow/water equivalent at 19 percent of normal for the northern Sierra Nevada, 28 percent of normal for the central and just 11 percent of normal for the southern Sierra, the Kern River's watershed.

At this point, Moore said, he is clinging to the hope that the state's snow sensors and aerial surveys won't prove totally accurate as the melt revs up.

"Even 1 percent more would be better than what we're looking at," he said.

-- Lois Henry, Californian columnist

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