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Fresno Prepares To Accept Potential Excess Water From Millerton Lake

Ezra David Romero
Friant Dam

With the possibility of a strong El Nino bringing heavy rains to California, the Fresno City Council is positioning itself to take any extra water that can’t be held in Millerton Lake.

The Fresno City Council vote 7-0 on a resolution to tell the federal government that it will be prepared to accept excess water should there not be enough space in the reservoir.

Fresno Public Utilities Director Tommy Esqueda said the resolution is needed well in advance because the federal government may only be able to give a few days, or even hours, notice that the water is being released.

“So it almost like we have been running like crazy trying to conserve, conserve, conserve and now we are going to have to flip a switch and go 180 degrees,” Esqueda said.

During previous heavy rain seasons, the dam has been topped and water spilled over the edge. Esqueda said they want to be prepared to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

The flip side of the prolonged drought is that there is plenty of space in ponding basins, groundwater, and treatment plants to handle the additional water.

“We can either park it in some existing ponding basins. If capacity is available. There are some flood storage facilities, we can park it here. The other thing we are doing is making capacity available at our waste water plants. We have ponding basins that have a capacity of 80,000 gallons a day and we are only running at 60,000 gallons,” Esqueda said.

One other benefit to the city is that excess water would be sold at half the rate that it is normally priced.

Even with this resolution, Esqueda said the city is still setting up contingency plans should the drought continue.

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.