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River reaches flood level in Portola

Feather Publishing
3/17/2011 9:00 Update

The City of Portola is reporting that as of this morning the Rocky Point gauging station is reading 9 feet (1 foot above flood level). But the city has received no reports of flooding thus far.

City Manager Jim Murphy said he has checked the area where the city experienced its first problems, a residence at the south end of West Street, and the water was right up to the front deck of the house, approximately 1 foot before the resident will have to vacate the house. The river is very wide at this location, so it will take a greater amount of water drainage to raise this area by one foot. “The cold weather of last night seems to have helped suppress the runoff into the river,” said Murphy. “Let’s hope that it doesn’t get too warm during the daylight hours and start the melt again.”

Click here to see the most current flood stage readings.

The Beckwourth office of the Department of Water Resources told the city this morning that it would be increasing the release from Lake Davis today from 10 cubic feet per second to 25 cfs as it cannot afford to have the Lake Davis dam spill. Murphy said he was assured that the impact of this release on the current level of the Feather River would be “hardly noticeable.”

DWR did say that the runoff from the Sierra Valley area is what might impact river levels through town and that the runoff going into the Sierra Valley takes about a day and a half to reach Portola.

Yesterday evening, floodwater washed out a city sewer main that crosses from north to south beneath the river. City crews were notified immediately via a system alarm and repaired the damage in approximately two hours. During that time sewage spilled into the Feather River. California Department of Public Health, Water Quality Control Board, Department of Water Resources, Department of Fish and Game and Plumas County Environmental Health were all notified. They have ordered downstream water testing, and city staff is currently taking water samples to Reno for testing.

Plumas County Office of Emergency Services Director Jerry Sipe has arranged for a representative from the National Weather Service in Reno to meet with city representatives this afternoon in Portola. “Hopefully we will get a better insight on what to expect in the days to come,” said Murphy.

3/17/2011 7:00 Update
The Middle Fork of the Feather River is currently above flood stage. Flood stage of 8 feet was reached early yesterday evening. The river is now at 9 feet and likely to get slightly higher before it crests this afternoon.
Fortunately, there is no additional rain forecast today although a small amount of snow is possible.

City officials in Portola are reporting that they expect the Middle Fork Feather River to reach flood stage, approximately 8 feet, by Wednesday afternoon.

The Middle Fork of the Feather River threatens to cross Highway 70 (in the background) near Portola. Photo by Diana Jorgenson

The river reached flood warning stage, approximately 7 feet, Tuesday evening. It had climbed to 7.6 feet by Wednesday morning.

City Manager Jim Murphy reported at 9:40 this morning that the river was approximately 2 feet from reaching the first residence inside the city. He said officials expect the river to crest sometime tomorrow afternoon, which may prompt “minimal” evacuations.

The readings are taken at the Rocky Point Road gauging station, just east of the city.

Murphy also reported the Portola sewer ponds are 4 inches from overflowing. The city is discharging water into the river, by permit authority; however water is entering the ponds at a greater rate than it can be discharged.

If the ponds overflow, the city will have to notify Department of Water Resources, Regional Water Quality Control Board and Department of Fish and Game, and it will be subject to their monitoring and regulatory requirements.

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