FRIANT, Calif. (KFSN) --Friant Dam is shooting out 3,000 cubic feet of water out every second. That's five times the normal flow. It's needed to make room for more water heading this way on an atmospheric river.
"They are expecting 170,000 acre feet, we have about 100,000 acre feet of storage and we have to make a hole for that water," said Michael Wolfe, Bureau of Reclamation.
Wolfe said the storms forecast for this weekend could force more drastic releases and result in downstream flooding if the level is not lowered now.
"We would have to exceed channel capacity to save our dam, so Firebaugh and Mendota would get wet and the trailer court on Highway 41."
That's what happened in 1997 when sudden storms and melting snow filled the reservoir.
The latest storm pattern has been building. Last year at this time the reservoir was 40 percent full, now it's more than 80 percent, and the water releases could continue for weeks.
Farm water groups see it as a big loss.
"It's gonna be a huge amount of water that ultimately has to come out of the reservoir. I understand it's about 300,000 acre feet, that's a lot of water. That's about 40 percent of the annual water supply that goes to the farmers," said Mario Santoyo, SJ Valley Water Infrastructure Authority.
Farm and irrigation groups said this is an example of why another larger dam is needed on the San Joaquin River to keep water during rare times like this.
"We are going from empty lakes to full in just two weeks," said Wolfe.