Valley Public Radio - Live Audio

At Lost Lake, Flooding Provides Research Opportunity

Jan 9, 2017

Lost Lake Park just below Friant Dam in Fresno County was closed to the public on Monday due to flooding. But federal scientists say the flooding was controlled and not historical—and it provided an opportunity for scientific study.

U.S. Geological Survey technicians get ready to measure the San Joaquin River's flow rate at Lost Lake Park.
Credit Kerry Klein / KVPR

Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey on Monday visited Lost Lake Park, where water has risen seven feet since last week. They’re here to measure the water’s flow rate, which will help calibrate the automatic sensors and gauges that monitor the river here 24 hours a day. 

Hydrologist Al Caldwell says flood events like this can be good for the river and nearby fish hatchery.

"This is good—it’s flushing a lot out of the channel that hasn’t been flushed out in years," says Caldwell.

He says the river’s flow rate is nowhere near as high as it was in 1997, and it’s lower even than in other parts of California.

"For instance, Yuba River at Marysville today is estimated to peak at around 80,000 cubic feet per second," he says. "This is seven. So you can see there’s a great variance."

Caldwell says the flooding could have been worse if the dam’s authorities hadn’t released water last week to prepare for the storm.