More Tulloch talk

Some tidbits that didn’t make the cut in today’s story about the possible draining of Lake Tulloch, east of Stockton:

• Here’s how it could help fish. Steelhead need cold water to spawn in the Stanislaus River. But Tulloch is shallow and warm. By draining Tulloch, cooler water from New Melones — which is about six miles upstream — can pass right through Lake Tulloch and continue down the Stanislaus. Essentially, the lake would revert to a river.

This was the strategy in the early 1990s, the last time Tulloch was drained. And it worked, according to water managers.

“We were able to lower downstream temperatures by 3 to 5 degrees,” said Steve Knell, general manager of the Oakdale Irrigation District. “That saved the fisheries in ’92.”

• While water managers say draining Tulloch could benefit both fish and water storage, upset Tulloch residents are focusing on the fish issue. They are urging the federal government to put aside fish protection rules until the drought is over.

It’s worth noting, however, that some environmental protections have already been waived. Emergency actions approved by the State Water Resources Control Board earlier this month decreased the amount of water required to flow down the San Joaquin River at Vernalis; that allows officials to hold back more water in New Melones.

So, there have been sacrifices all the way around.

• The biggest culprit in the sad state of New Melones (41 percent of normal) is the lack of rain and snow, not fish rules, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Still, frequent depletion of the reservoir is pretty much what local water managers predicted in 2009 when the feds issued the current, more aggressive fish protection rules for the Stan.

That hasn’t escaped the local water managers in this season of scarcity.

“What we said is coming to fruition,” Knell said.

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