Mendo Island Journal — Timely. Useful. Sometimes Cranky.

Water, Then and Now – UPDATED 1/21/09

From Janie Sheppard
Mendocino County

Updated below

A chance encounter while enjoying a stroll on the new trails around Lake Mendocino, Bill and I met Sean White, the Executive Director of the Russian River Flood Control District. The first person we met, he was enjoying the trails as well. Not surprisingly, the conversation quickly turned to the water level in the lake. Sean said it had not been so low on the same January date since 1976-77, and summed up what happened then with one word: “gnarly.” And, that’s when there were fewer water users than there are now. Thursday, January 22, he said, there would be a public meeting to inform the public. Put that date on your calendar and await details to be announced in Tuesday’s Ukiah Daily Journal and in Ukiah Blog.


It was nice running into you on the trail. Our meeting will be at 6 pm at the Alex Rorabaugh Center (1640 S. State) at 6 pm on Thursday the 22nd. We will be discussing two main issues at this Special Meeting:

1)The upcoming SWRCB License Inspection
2)The Water Supply Outlook for 2009

FYI-Reservoir levels are now the lowest on record for this date. In 1977 we had approximately 52,000 acre feet of storage at this time, it is currently at 33,000…the situation is indeed “gnarly”.

We are are hoping that by beginning water supply discussions early, we can have allocation system in-place if rainfall continues to be insufficient. Thanks for spreading the word and hope to see you at the meeting.

Sean White
General Manager

If you haven’t visited Lake Mendocino lately, you may not be aware of how dire the situation is. Here are some pictures that show how much lake bottom is exposed. All that brown dirt would be under water in a normal year, which this clearly isn’t. Just the other day, the U.S. Corps of Engineers closed the lake to all but “small” boats.

The structure in the center is the outlet. Soon, the water won’t reach the outlet.

This is the view looking north, promising it isn’t. Scary, it is. Only half kidding, I suggested a rain dance as a way to raise awareness of the water situation. Without a couple of big storms we are in for some serious water shortages, making us nostalgic for just “gnarly.”

Global warming, climate change, whatever you prefer to call the weather, the wildflowers, pretty as ever, are early this year.

  1. I’m meeting with a Healdsburg city council member tomorrow about this very issue. Apparently Healdsburg is going to have a water conservation ordinance. I’m hoping that it is put in place soon so that we all start conserving water now rather than waiting until this summer. Of course, we residents can voluntarily reduce our water consumption.

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