PG&E projects Lake Almanor, Bucks Lake water levels to be below normal this summer
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. announced that Lake Almanor and Bucks Lake water levels are projected to be below normal this summer due to drought conditions.
PG&E announced the lake level projections May 8 at the 2105 Lake Level Committee meeting in Chico, which is held most years to review and discuss PG&E’s planned water operations for Lake Almanor and Bucks Lake for the remainder of the year. The committee name refers to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission project no. 2105, which is the license number for PG&E’s upper North Fork Feather River hydroelectric project.
Kevin Richards, a hydrologist in PG&E’s power generation department, stated at the meeting that PG&E plans its operations to balance recreation, the environment, generation and other needs, but with less inflow due to the drought, Lake Almanor will be about 3 to 5 feet lower than normal this summer.
Despite the lower levels, Lake Almanor will still have the third largest surface area of any freshwater lake entirely within California. PG&E has been generating less hydropower this spring to save water in reservoirs.
In 2013, Northern California experienced the driest calendar year on record, with dry conditions continuing into 2014; however, late winter and early spring storms have slightly improved the situation. Total precipitation for the season to date in the Lake Almanor Basin is 62 percent of normal, and in the Bucks Lake Basin it is 59 percent of normal, Richards reported.
This year, based on current data, a moderate summer electrical demand and historical modeling, PG&E projects that Lake Almanor levels will reach approximately 4,484 feet elevation by July 4. The level is projected to be approximately 4,479 feet by Labor Day.
For Bucks Lake, levels will also be lower than last year, reaching approximately 5,138 feet elevation by July 4. Bucks Lake’s level will be approximately 5,135 feet in elevation by Labor Day, about 5 feet below normal for that date. Since December, PG&E has only once drawn water from Bucks Lake to generate power at the Bucks Creek Powerhouse. This was in response to a state-called Flex Alert and lasted only two days.
Lake Almanor receives much of its water from large volcanic aquifers in the Southern Cascade Mountain Range that release a steady year-round flow of water from springs. However, Bucks Lake is in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and largely relies on surface runoff from the current season.
PG&E expects Butt Valley Reservoir to be within its normal operating range this summer.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co., a subsidiary of PG&E Corp. (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with more than 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to 15 million people in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit pge.com and pge.com/about/newsroom.