A full New Melones Lake in our future?

New Melones storage levels since 2011, when the lake nearly reached capacity

I asked the Bureau of Reclamation’s Ron Milligan on Tuesday if it’s conceivable that New Melones could fill up later this year — a question that would have been laughed off just two months ago.

With a little more snow in the central Sierra, Milligan said, it is possible.

New Melones was the last of the major reservoirs to recover from the drought.

“It’s a big reservoir,” he said. “People said it would take decades to refill.”

Instead, the reservoir is in a practically perfect position heading into March. At 107 percent of normal, and about 66 percent of capacity, it’s not forced to dump water like its nearly full sister reservoir to the south, Don Pedro, where officials have been scrambling to make room for future storms and snowmelt.

Instead, if all goes well, New Melones will gradually fill up over the next few months without having to make large releases that could contribute to downstream flooding.

New Melones has long been a magnet for controversy on the San Joaquin River side of the system, with its water promised to cities and farms, and a need to protect endangered species in the Stanislaus River and meet water quality standards in the downstream Delta.

For the near future, at least, there just might be enough of New Melones to go around.

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  • Blog Author

    Alex Breitler

    A native of Benicia, he lives in Stockton with his wife, Ann, who forces him to go backpacking in the Sierra Nevada or Trinity Alps at every opportunity. He has been writing mostly about natural resources since 2003, first in Redding and now in ... Read Full
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