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California’s Tulare Lake community is unlikely to flood this year

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  • California officials said Monday that communities near Tulare Lake are unlikely to experience drastic flooding this year as weather conditions improve.
  • Several weeks ago, scientists and officials had warned of worsening flooding in the Central Valley due to a large amount of snowpack from the Sierra Nevada melting and sending more water into the basin.
  • Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state would spend $17 million to strengthen the levees that protect the Corcoran from flooding.

Floodwaters from the resurgent Tulare Lake near Corcoran, California, May 1, 2023.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

California officials said Monday that communities near Tulare Lake are unlikely to experience drastic flooding this year as weather conditions improve following a series of powerful atmospheric river storms that refilled the basin.

Several weeks ago, scientists and officials had warned of worsening flooding in the Central Valley due to a large amount of snowpack from the Sierra Nevada melting and sending more water into the basin. The forecasts raised concerns about potential dam breaks and displacement of residents in communities such as Corcoran and Stratford.

But officials said they no longer expect those communities to flood, in part because of state efforts to raise levees and farmers’ work to divert more water for irrigation. Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state would spend $17 million to strengthen the levees that protect the Corcoran from flooding.

Brian Ferguson, deputy director of crisis communications for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said during a news briefing Monday that officials are no longer expecting injuries as severe as they were several weeks ago.

Forecast models now suggest that Tulare Lake will not exceed an elevation of about 184 feet above sea level, although officials warned that the arrival of storms could accelerate the melting of snowpack and cause more flooding.

“We are in significantly better shape than we were several weeks ago,” Ferguson said. “But we want to emphasize that we are not out of the woods by any means.”

Tulare Lake was the largest freshwater body west of the Mississippi River until the late 19th century, when its tributaries were diverted for agricultural irrigation and municipal water use.

The resurgent lake now stretches about 10 miles from bank to bank on farmland used to grow almonds, cotton, tomatoes and other crops.

The California Department of Water Resources is working to divert additional water before it flows into the lake bed. The current flood waters may remain for as long as two years.

Floodwaters from the resurgent Tulare Lake near Corcoran, California, May 1, 2023.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

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