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Last week’s series of storms brought a lot of moisture to the area and completely saturated the ground, causing ponds where there was once dry ground and threats of flooding to those near rivers and lakes.
An official flood warning of the Middle Fork of the Feather River from Portola to Clio was announced Wednesday, March 16, when the water neared 8 feet at the Rocky Point gauging station, 8 feet deemed flood level. By Thursday morning, the river crested at 9 feet, and then slowly backed off as the one-day sunny reprieve calmed the flow temporarily. By Friday, another storm had settled in, and concern resumed.
Some Sierra Valley ranchers struggled to relocate remaining cattle in the valley to other less water-soaked areas in the state, water was a mere few feet from Portola’s Memorial Hall, and city sewer operators kept a watchful eye on pond levels which were mere inches from overflowing.
Fortunately, rain turned to snow over the weekend, river levels went down, and concerns about pond levels eased, and attention turned to clearing snow from city streets. As of Monday morning, river levels were down to 6 feet, well below flood stage.
The city of Portola had one mishap when a main sewer line running under the Feather River broke last Wednesday evening. It took city crews two hours to fix the line and sewage flowed into the river in the interim. The spill was reported to the Department of Public Health, the Water Quality Control Board, the Department of Water Resources (DWR), Department of Fish and Game and Plumas County Environmental. Water samples were taken downstream from the spill and are currently being tested.
DWR officials also increased the release from Lake Davis from 10 cubic feet per second to 25 cubic feet per second to keep water from spilling over the dam. They assured city authorities that the increase would be “hardly noticeable.” Of greater concern, they said, was runoff from Sierra Valley, which might take a day or a day and a half to reach Portola.
Grizzly Lake Resort Improvement District’s (GLRID) water operators worked long days and nights to divert excess water from their sewer ponds throughout the week and by Friday were confident that pond levels were within their normal range and out of danger.
Local residents were not pleased with additional snowfall as the weekend approached, not with spring scheduled on the calendar, but as one Sierra Valley rancher expressed herself, “We’re toughing it out, as we do every year.”
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