Large release of water planned for New Melones Lake

STOCKTON - The federal Bureau of Reclamation has announced plans to reduce the level of water in New Melones Lake in Calaveras County for the purpose of helping fish downstream in the Stanislaus River.

Currently, the rate of water flowing out of the lake is about 200 cubic feet per second. Sometime next week it's expected the amount will be increased to 1,000 cubic feet per second over a period of three days.

The plan has raised concerns about how it could impact the availability of drinking water from the lake for some area residents.

"This is a water use that doesn't make sense," said Bere Lindley of the South San Joaquin Irrigation District. "It might be forgivable in a normal, or wet year, but not in a drought,"

That's the agency that manages the Stanislaus River for water customers in Manteca and Ripon. Lindley said the bureau's plan for release interrupts negotiations between the district and the bureau for a much wider plan on how to manage water in New Melones.

"These releases will occur before the plan is established. We'll have less water to work with in the plan. We'd prefer if the releases were part of the plan," Lindley said.

New Melones Lake is currently at about 25 percent capacity.

Congressman Tom McClintock also voiced his disapproval of the plan Friday, writing in a letter that the release could be "catastrophic" for residents of Calaveras County who rely on New Melones for drinking water.


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