kern river
(photo: By Barbara / Adobe Stock)

Kern River Watermaster updates Greater Bakersfield Chamber on Kern River. 

Natalie Willis, Valley Ag Voice 

On June 2, the Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce welcomed Kern River Watermaster Mark Mulkay to explain current conditions on the Kern River. Because of the above average snow and rainfall, the Central Valley’s reservoirs have replenished after three years of extreme drought, but its excess has caused the state to activate the “intertie” relief valve for the first time in 17 years. 

Mulkay requested that the state authorize the use of the relief valve on May 10 to divert flood water to spare Tulare Lake. According to Bakersfield Now, Governor Gavin Newsom approved this notion in his executive order.  

“With flooding impacts expected to continue into the summer, California is committed to supporting robust preparation, response, and recovery efforts in this hard-hit region and to using floodwaters to recharge our critical groundwater supplies where it’s safe to do so,” Newsom said in the order.  

As soon as the water reaches the aqueduct, it belongs to the State Water Project, which expects to deliver up to 30% of water to California farmers, a stark contrast from last year’s zero percent allotment. The valve has been opened for 14 days, with 500 cubic feet per second released to the California Aqueduct. According to Mulkay, the intertie valve will theoretically shut off within three weeks.  

An early March storm sparked significant snowmelt, “jumping from 100,000 acre-feet to over 400,000 acre-feet,” Mulkay said. This jump led to flooding concerns, and the state issued a mandatory release with significant flows coming from the reservoir. This release brought numbers down to 300,000 acre-feet. The ebb and flow have continued ever since and currently sits at about 430,000 acre-feet, according to Mulkay.  

The goal, Mulkay explained, is to fill Lake Isabella.  

“As you remember, the reservoir has been under construction since 2004 to fix the seismic issues, [which] luckily was just finished last year,” Mulkay said. “The current projection is we’re probably going to get somewhere around 600 to 620,000 acre-feet in the reservoir.”  

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