Water situation grim in northern California

About the author

Dan O'Sullivan

Dan O'Sullivan

Dan O’Sullivan is an outdoor journalist from Loomis, Calif., and a member of the California Federation Nation board of directors. He and his wife have three daughters. He's the managing editor of AdvancedAngler.com.

Folsom, Calif. — Water, water everywhere, but not enough for boaters.

California's water situation has been historically tenuous. As shaky as the equilibrium is under normal circumstances, it has tipped into the unbalanced realm.

It wasn't always that way for the only California region to host Elite Series events.

Two years ago, northern California experienced one of the best rainfall seasons since 1921.

Moreover, 2006 was the state's fifth wettest. With 80.1 inches in the Northern Sierra Eight Station Precipitation Index, the watershed appeared to be in tremendous shape.

In May 2007, three of California's main watershed reservoirs (Folsom, Shasta and Oroville) hovered around 80 percent full (visit www.weather.water.ca.gov for more). But 2008 has been very different. As of July 28, those same lakes averaged 125 feet low; they were continuing to fall as this issue of BASS Times was going to press.

According to California Department of Water Resources public information officer Don Strickland, the current situation is a result of many factors. They include "below normal" precipitation (despite a wet January and February, which raised the Sierra's snowpack to 120 percent of normal heading into summer), water contracts with central and southern California, federal salinity control mandates, and California Delta bait and gamefish needs.

"Many factors add to the equation, and our analysts work hard to try and stay ahead of it," Strickland said. "It's not an exact science. They usually do a pretty good job, but it can be tough to accurately predict everything."

This year has been low water levels.

Folsom had been reduced to a 5 miles per hour speed limit, and Oroville was only a few feet from all of the boat ramps being out of the water.

Strickland said he hopes it will get better soon. "It doesn't look good right now. We're hoping for a wet winter season, or next summer could be worse."

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