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The Army Corps of Engineers ordered flood releases into the Tulare Lake in central California from the Kings River. This is a rare move.

Todd Fitchette, Associate Editor

March 22, 2023

2 Min Read
irrigate farmland
Irrigated farmland in the Tulare Lakebottom region of California will go unplanted this summer as the dry lakebed is used for flood control relief. The Army Corps of Engineers ordered flood releases from the Kings River to the lake bottom to continue indefinitely.Todd Fitchette

Once the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River, Tulare Lake in central California will begin to refill amidst continued heavy rain and flooding in the state. The lake has long been dry because of water diversions.

The Army Corps of Engineers ordered flood releases into the dry lakebed from the Kings River. This is a rare move that will convey water through the Kings River Water Association onto the lakebed. The river releases are expected to last indefinitely, according to Kings River Conservation District.

Water releases from Pine Flat Dam near Fresno will move down the Kings River and make their way to the lake bottom, which is typically farmed each year for crops including cotton, canning tomatoes, and safflower. Water releases into Tulare Lake have been happening already from the Kaweah and Tule rivers in Tulare County, along with several other tributaries flowing from the southern Sierra Nevada.

According to a statement from KRCD, high Kings River flows have been common since early January when the current series of storm events began bringing above-average amounts of snow and rain to the Sierra Nevada, and repeated heavy rainfall across the San Joaquin Valley. Many of these storms have been fueled by tropically spawned atmospheric rivers, coupled with effects of very cold low-pressure systems from the Gulf of Alaska.

Tulare Lake sits at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley and has no outflow. It’s use for flood control means thousands of acres of farmland in the region will go unplanted this year. Flooding in the region has already inundated small towns and affected farms in Tulare, Kings, and Kern counties. Numerous dairies have been forced to relocate cattle from the region as flooding has also impacted food processing and other facilities.

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About the Author(s)

Todd Fitchette

Associate Editor, Western Farm Press

Todd Fitchette, associate editor with Western Farm Press, spent much of his journalism career covering agriculture in California and the western United States. Aside from reporting about issues related to farm production, environmental regulations and legislative matters, he has extensive experience covering the dairy industry, western water issues and politics. His journalistic experience includes local daily and weekly newspapers, where he was recognized early in his career as an award-winning news photographer.

Fitchette is US Army veteran and a graduate of California State University, Chico. 

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