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Pine Flat: Over Capacity But Not Over The Wall

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR
Pine Flat Dam on June 23, 2017

Thanks to the rapidly melting snowpack, Pine Flat Reservoir on the Kings River east of Fresno is now expected to exceed 100% of its capacity. But water managers aren’t too worried.

Due in part to the extreme heat, estimates of the snowmelt flowing into the Pine Flat Lake were off by about 200,000 acre feet. As of Friday afternoon, the reservoir is just a few inches away from being completely full.

But with more water coming in from the High Sierra, dam engineers have a backup plan.

They can manipulate the spillway gate to create extra storage in an attempt to prevent uncontrolled releases from going over the spillway.

Randy McFarland with the Kings River Water Association says that is called ‘surcharging’.

Credit US Army Corps of Engineers
US Army Corps of Engineers
Pine Flat Reservoir is poised to exceed its official capacity of 1,000,000 acre feet of water.

“The reservoir and the dam were designed to take an additional 10-foot depth. Which is a lot of water because it would spread out back in the canyon. That has never happened. They have surcharged a little bit before but not that much,” McFarland says.

McFarland says they expect outflow to continue at nearly 15,000 cubic feet per second. McFarland says they do not expect this to cause any more flooding than what is currently happening.

The release is a dramatic sight drawing many spectators like Genaro Castillo.

“It just looks amazing. Just the view itself. It is just amazing how much water is just coming down and how much they are releasing. Just goes to show how much snow pack they have up there. And this hot weather. It is just an awesome view,” Castillo says.

Even though the flooding is not predicted to become more severe, there have been low-lying areas near the river bottom that have been inundated forcing some residents to evacuate. On Friday afternoon the National Weather Service issued a flood warning for areas along the Kings River between Pine Flat and the Hanford area. 

Jeffrey Hess is a reporter and Morning Edition news host for Valley Public Radio. Jeffrey was born and raised in a small town in rural southeast Ohio. After graduating from Otterbein University in Columbus, Ohio with a communications degree, Jeffrey embarked on a radio career. After brief stops at stations in Ohio and Texas, and not so brief stops in Florida and Mississippi, Jeffrey and his new wife Shivon are happy to be part Valley Public Radio.