Creek Fire: Water deliveries from dams might be affected due to evacuations

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Among the people forced to flee the Creek Fire were workers who keep the vast network of hydroelectric dams running.

Eric Quinley is general manager of the Delano-Earlimart Irrigation District. He said reservoir releases were reduced to minimum levels.

Friant Dam, located at the end of the water delivery network, was at just 30% capacity right now.

Behind the dam, the water level at Millerton Lake typically drops at the end of summer.

But Quinley worried some of his table grape growers might not get enough water in the future to finish up the growing season.

Quinley said, "It'll definitely be a challenge. We're going to go through another heatwave this week and growers are reliant on those surface water deliveries."

Several mountain lakes feed into Friant Dam.

Southern California Edison was in the process of assessing damage to its powerhouses like the Big Creek hydroelectric plant, which is not operating right now.

Spokesman Reggie Kumar said, "We are hopeful to initiate some limited return to service within the next couple of weeks, but do not expect full return to service until 2021."

Friant Dam is holding about 160,000 acre-feet of water right now. Quinley said if that number drops to 135,000 feet, water deliveries would have to be halted.

He added, "In the coming days and weeks we'll see how long we end up going on Millerton Lake. But there's the potential we get back to some levels that we haven't seen in 30 years."

The Bureau of Reclamation remained hopeful water deliveries through the Friant-Kern Canal would not be disrupted.
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