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Work continues on Terminus Dam

Tulare County, CA is seeing more water than usual and it’s not just coming from the skies. The Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that oversees Lake Kaweah and Kaweah Terminus Dam, began releasing water last week and will continue into next week. The lake can hold 185,000 acre-feet of water and is releasing of 900 cubic feet of water per second in order to allow repairs to be made to the Terminus Dam tower, which flooded in April 2016. A busted section of pipe has created months of work for the Army Corps. Phil Deffenbaugh, manager of Lake Kaweah for the Army Corps, said it is still unknown when repairs will be completed. “It’s a hard answer to give,” he said. “But it’s progressing well.”

 

According to Deffenbaugh, water levels need to be at 600 feet above sea level for work to be done on a portion of the pipes. That work is expected to be done this week. The dam was completed in 1962 by the Army Corps to provide flood damage reduction and water conservation, according to officials. Energy production was added in 1990 with the construction of the Terminus Power Plant. The hydroelectric plant generates about 40 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually –– comparable to 67,000 barrels of oil. As of 2004, the largest fusegates in the country were placed in the Lake Kaweah spillway. It’s common to release water two to three times during the winter months, said Mark Larsen, general manager of Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District. While the Army Corp is aware of the need to save water, it’s also thinking about the main purpose of the dam –– flood control. “During the winter months, the Army Corps calls the shots,” he said. “Yes, farmers would rather have water released in the summer time. In reality, there is much more water in the watershed than the lake can hold.” Deffenbaugh said water levels at the lake are right where they are supposed to be for this time of year. But more water being released

is contingent on rainfall. “It all depends on the storm,” he said. “How much demand the rain creates downstream and the conditions of the lake due to the storm.”

 

Scott Borgioli, chief meteorologist with WeatherAg, predicts rain totals could hit 2-plus inches of throughout the Valley between now and Monday. “Mountain, foothill rivers, creeks and streams will be running high and fast,” Borgioli said, “Stay out of the area and away from the water.”

The strongest storm system is expected to hit the Valley Saturday. “For the mountains, the potential is there for a foot or more of rainfall,” Borgioli said. “High rain totals will also extend into the foothills.” More rain could mean more water for Tulare County farmers. In November, The California Department of Water Resources released its initial projection of water allotment for 2017 — 20 percent of their full allotment. “With the storms coming there is a lot of promise,” Larsen said. State allotments tend to increase by the end of winter depending on rain and snowfall totals. Initial projections for 2016 were 10 percent but water districts received 60 percent.