Not much water flowed into the Carmel River Lagoon
Last week’s rain marked the first serious winter storm to hit the Monterey Peninsula and Big Sur Coast since December, 2012. It was badly needed.
As is often the case, Mining Ridge, in Big Sur, recorded the highest rain total of anywhere in Central California, with over 13 inches.
The runoff quickly filled what’s left of the reservoir behind Los Padres Dam and sent enough water down the Carmel River to attain a peak flow of 814 cubic feet per second (cfs) at Rosie’s Bridge. Beyond that point, most of the water soaked into the overpumped Carmel Valley Aquifer. Only a trickle made it as far as the lagoon. Not even enough to create the usual flood emergency for the lagoon-bottom homes, and far from enough to breach the sandbar and open the river to steelhead migration.
The Nacimiento and San Antonio rivers also sprang to life; the Nacimiento peaking at a modest 1,280 cfs and the San Antonio at a very low 56 cfs. Every little bit counts, though, and 6,812 acre feet had been added to storage in the two lakes by Monday, with more still trickling in.
That’s nice but, to put it in perspective, it’s less than the dams will need to release per week, come summer, when over 1,000 acre feet per day must be discharged to prevent Salinas Valley pumping from accelerating seawater intrusion. While Lake San Antonio has risen around 6 inches and Lake Nacimiento nearly 3 feet, San Antonio is currently 92 feet lower, and Nacimiento 31 feet lower, than on this date a year ago.
If you go back two years, they’re down by 105 and 44 feet.
Without more storms and a lot more runoff, there simply isn’t going to be enough water in storage to make adequate summer releases possible. And that could be very bad news for the Salinas groundwater basin.
Let’s hope the weather pattern has changed and more storms are on the way.
This webcam provides a good view of the situation at Lake Nacimiento.