End of drought declared in California after bounty of rain, snow

03/31/2011 12:46 AM

03/31/2011 7:30 AM

Will the "d" word finally go away?

With significant increases in rainfall and snow in California this winter, Gov. Jerry Brown proclaimed an end to the state's drought Wednesday.

Brown's proclamation officially rescinded executive order S-06-08, issued June 4, 2008, and ended the states of emergency called June 12, 2008, and Feb. 27, 2009.

Most of the state's major reservoirs, including Lake McClure on the Merced River, are above normal storage levels.

McClure has a capacity of 1,024,600 acre-feet. With about 762,000 acre-feet in the reservoir Wednesday, the lake was at about 76 percent of capacity.

An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons, or a year's supply for an average family in the San Joaquin Valley.

"Bottom line is we've got plenty of water this year," said Mike Jensen, public affairs coordinator for the Merced Irrigation District, the agency that oversees Lake McClure.

Jensen said Lake McClure rose about seven feet during the storms that hit the state last week.

Because of the heavy inflow from the storms, flood managers are monitoring high river flows and making flood control releases from reservoirs to maintain storage space.

At McClure, about 4,082 cubic feet per second of water was coming into the lake Wednesday, and about 4,200 cubic feet per second was being let out of the reservoir.

In Newman, residents near the San Joaquin River were ready to evacuate Wednesday afternoon if need be, as the river came within inches of homes.

California Department of Water Resources hydrologists announced Wednesday that the water content in the state's mountain snowpack is 165 percent of the April 1 full-season average.

For the past three years, Merced County Agriculture Commissioner David Robinson has declared a disaster because of the drought.

"Those three years were based on rangeland that was so dry, ranchers were suffering more than a 30 percent loss," Robinson said.

This year, dry rangeland in the hills outside Merced is a memory. Instead, it's flooding that worries water managers throughout the state, who have been lowering reservoirs to leave room for the snow that has blanketed the Sierra Nevada.

Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at creiter@mercedsun-star.com or (209) 385-2486.

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