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Weekend storm makes positive impact on area
Don Pedro Lake reopens all launch ramps
Turlock Irrigation District workers have been busy pouring an acre of concrete a day to line the bottom portion of the Lateral 8 Regulating Reservoir Expansion Project. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

For the first time in nearly two years, Don Pedro Recreation Agency will open all three launch ramps at Don Pedro Lake due to much-needed precipitation and rising lake levels.

Fleming Meadows launch ramp will open two additional lanes for a maximum of five lanes and two courtesy docks, while both Moccasin Point and Blue Oaks launch ramps will have two lanes open and two courtesy docks.

"They've been closed since June and July of 2014, so this is great news for us," said TID Assistant General Manager of Water Resources Tou Her.

Her also reported that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife planted 1,500 pounds of trout at Fleming Meadows launch ramp.

"The weekend storm was quite significant with respect to reservoir elevations," said Her. "We started Friday on March 5 with elevation of about 723 [feet], and by Monday the elevation was 728-a five foot increase over that period of time. And today elevation is about 730."

Data up until Sunday at TID revealed that the Tuolumne River Watershed has experienced 4.13 inches of precipitation throughout the month of March, with 3.54 inches of rainfall brought to the region on Saturday and Sunday alone. With this total, accumulated precipitation in the Tuolumne River Watershed from September to March 7 now stands at 31.85 inches of 121.7 percent of the region's historical average of 30.31 inches.

TID Utility Analyst Jason Carkeet said that precipitation forecast from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction includes upwards of four to five inches in the upper watershed between now and March 15, and an inch to an inch and a half between March 15 and March 23.

While recent precipitation has been beneficial for most of the region, Her said it did cause a "wrinkle" in the timeline regarding the Lateral 8 Regulating Reservoir Expansion Project, which currently has TID workers busy pouring an acre of concrete a day to line the reservoir.

As detailed in the scope of the project, the enlarged facility will continue to serve as a surface water regulation facility used to stabilize agricultural irrigation flows to TID customers within District boundaries. It will also present the potential for increased water savings since the project is expected to increase reservoir storage capacity from 29 acre-feet to 130 acre-feet.

The expansion will allow for the capture of a majority of the spills on the Highline Canal at approximately 9,000 acre-feet, which is a significant increase from what the current facility is capable of at approximately 2,550 acre-feet during an average year of rain.

In April of last year, TID completed construction of the Lateral 8 Regulating Reservoir, which is located near the end of the Highline Canal in Hilmar. The project, which was constructed by renovating an old waste water treatment facility that was purchased from the Hilmar County Water District, goes in conjunction with the Lateral 8 Total Control Channel Pilot Project to capture spillage and deliver only the amount of water that is needed for customers.

Given the success of the existing reservoir with capturing a sizeable amount of water during the 2015 irrigation season, the Irrigation Capital Planning Team chose to implement plans to enlarge the facility. TID owns approximately 25.5 acres of property on which the current seven-acre reservoir sits, and the original design also included elements to facilitate an expansion of the reservoir to cover the entire property.

So far, TID has completed embankment construction, side lining, perimeter fencing and aggregate base bank. Workers still have to complete the bottom lining, as well as pump installation and automation.

"We're 70 percent done with the floor, but the storm put a wrinkle in it, so we're basically on hold. There is about six days left of work," said Her. "Weather permitting we should be able to complete everything by the end of March."