Southern California Edison crews will be able to restart some releases from lakes in the San Joaquin River watershed after the Creek Fire overran much of the area through September.
Edison spokesman Reggie Kumar said portions of the Big Creek facility went back online Sept. 29 but restoration has been hampered partly because of extremely poor air quality. And the fire is still burning. It was at 44% containment as of Thursday.
Even so, Edison crews will be able to send 2,000 acre feet a day down the mountain at least through October 14, according to authorities.
Those releases, which flow into Millerton Lake, mean farmers from Fresno to Arvin will be able to continue irrigation.
Farmers along the eastern side of the San Joaquin Valley rely on water from the Friant-Kern Canal out of Millerton. And Millerton relies on water from Edison’s Big Creek system, a string of powerhouses and reservoirs, including Mammoth Pools, Huntington and Shaver lakes.
When the Big Creek system was evacuated because of the fire, Edison workers set the lakes to minimal releases and got out.
That left farmers what was stored in Millerton. The lake level dropped to about 157,000 acre feet, which is dangerously close to the “minimum pool” level of 135,000 acre feet.
Below that, water can’t physically get into the Friant-Kern Canal, as the valves are set high up in Friant Dam to facilitate the 152-mile slide down the valley.
Water managers who take water from the Friant-Kern Canal had been told to prepare for pro-rated deliveries and many had already switched to stored water from other reservoirs or told growers to go to groundwater. They learned Thursday that at least some Friant water would be available.
“Provided Friant’s demands don’t go above 1,000 cubic feet per second, we’re looking good. At least through the 15th,” said Michael Jackson, Area Manager for the Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the Friant-Kern Canal. The canal is operated by Friant Water Authority.
Many water managers who had alternate supplies, quickly made arrangements to switch.
“We have supplies in San Luis (reservoir) through contracts and exchanges, some (San Joaquin River) Restoration recapture water. So we made the calls to switch over,” said Arvin-Edison Water Storage District General Manager Jeevan Muhar. “We wanted to do the right thing and help our fellow Friant friends up north who were in quite a pinch.
“It was going to be significant,” he said. “They were going to cut everyone by half.”