Carmel River Reaches Minor Flood Stage

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About 10 times this much water is now flowing across the sandbar at the Carmel River mouth.

The Carmel River peaked at 9.1 feet early this morning at Rosie’s Bridge in the Carmel Valley Village. That’s a flow of more than 7,000 cubic feet per second – and the largest flow the Carmel River has seen since 1998. 9 feet at Rosie’s Bridge is considered “minor flood stage” – although some flooding did occur earlier this week with the river below that level.

Runoff from lower tributaries has increased the size of the peak as it has travelled down Carmel Valley and 10,100 cfs are now passing the “Near Carmel” gauge near the river mouth. Further upstream, at Rosie’s Bridge, the river has already dropped to 7.26 feet (4,450 cfs).

Contrary to speculation on social media, the removal of the San Clemente Dam is not causing higher flows in Carmel Valley. The dam had been silted in, and having no impact on river flows, for decades before it was demolished.

What is of concern, are reports that the river has scoured away the carefully constructed “step pools” in its bypass channel at the former dam site and is incising that channel more deeply, leading to bank collapse and the loss of trees in the riparian zone upstream. It will be interesting to see what the new channel looks like, and how accommodating it will be for fish, once the water goes down.

8:30 am Update: The peak flows have now moved out to sea and all parts of the river are quickly receding. Flow at the mouth is now under 9,000 cfs.

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5 Responses to Carmel River Reaches Minor Flood Stage

  1. Lois says:

    With the kind of rain and wind we’ve been experiencing for the last week, I think a few landscapes will be changing, particularly Big Sur

  2. Verna Jigour says:

    What is date of the above photo? Guess that was ~ 1,010 cfs?

  3. Lois says:

    I saw the Carmel River today at the lagoon. That’s quite a bank it’s cut in the north side. The lagoon is draining into the river, and the river is still flowing like a torrent. The ocean waves breaking on the shore were brown from the runoff and with all the wood on the beach, it would serve for a lot of bonfires for quite awhile. Not that bonfires are legal on that beach.

  4. xasauan says:

    The photo is from January 4, 2017 – one week ago today.

  5. John Williams says:

    My NOAA Fisheries friends tell me that the step pools have indeed washed out, but the river is making a new channel that should be just fine.

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