Flooding is unlikely to happen in communities round Tulare Lake, California this yr

Flood water from re-emerging Tulare Lake near Corcoran, California, May 1, 2023.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

California officials said Monday that communities near Lake Tulare are unlikely to experience drastic flooding this year as weather conditions improved after a series of strong atmospheric river storms that refilled the basin.

A few weeks ago, scientists and officials had warned of worsening flooding in the Central Valley as a large amount of snow from the Sierra Nevada melts and sends more water into the basin. The forecast sparked concerns about possible levee breaches and the displacement of residents in communities like Corcoran and Stratford.

But officials said they no longer expected flooding in those communities, in part due to government efforts to raise levees and efforts by farmers to divert more water for irrigation. Earlier this month Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state would spend $17 million to strengthen the levees protecting Corcoran from flooding.

Brian Ferguson, deputy director for crisis communications at the California governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said during a news conference Monday that officials are no longer expecting the damage to be as severe as a few weeks ago.

Forecast models now suggest Lake Tulare will not surpass an elevation of about 184 feet above sea level, although officials warned that the arrival of storms could accelerate snowpack melting and cause more flooding.

“We’re in a lot better shape than we were a few weeks ago,” Ferguson said. “However, we would like to emphasize that we are far from over the mountain.”

Tulare Lake was the largest freshwater reservoir west of the Mississippi River until the late 19th century, when its tributaries were diverted for agricultural irrigation and municipal water use.

The revitalized lake now stretches about 10 miles from shore to shore and includes farmland growing almonds, cotton, tomatoes and other crops.

The California Department of Water Resources is working to divert additional water before it flows into the lake bottom. The current flood could last up to two years.

Flood water from re-emerging Tulare Lake near Corcoran, California, May 1, 2023.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

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