Water levels in Merced County dams remain high as more rain approaches

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Saturday, January 14, 2023
Water levels in Merced County dams remain high as more rain approaches
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Evacuations could become critical in Merced County for homes in the path of a potential disaster as more storms approach this weekend.

MERCED COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Evacuations could become critical in Merced County for homes in the path of a potential disaster as more storms approach this weekend.

With the amount of saturation that the North Valley has already had, there just isn't any room to store more water.

Officials are worried about the incoming rain as canal bank and levee breaks continue to be an issue.

Built in the 1950's, Mariposa Dam and Owens Dam are a part of a group of four dams called the Merced Stream Group.

The dams were designed to control foothill and mountain drainage and have ungated outlets, meaning flood control operations are automatic, leading to the problems we are facing today.

During a flooding event, controlled or modified releases aren't possible.

The US Army Corps of Engineers explained that there just wasn't enough time for Mariposa and Owens Dam to clear their pool of water and create space ahead of this weekend's storm.

Several evacuation warnings below both creeks have been issued, including the area of Planada South and Le Grand.

An evacuation order has been issued in Merced along the area of Cooper Road near Highway 99 along Bear Creek.

In 2017, rain and flash flooding in Mariposa County caused nearly $1 million in damage.

This time around, spillway from the dams is predicted to be even greater.

Action News reached out to the U.S. army corps of engineers about this issue. Officials wrote in a statement:

"While the forecasts could change, we currently expect peak spillway flow from Owens Dam could reach 560 cfs and peak spillway flow from Mariposa Dam could approach 3,000 cfs. For reference, Mariposa experienced a spillway flow of 2,000 cfs in 2017."

Evacuation warnings can be easily upgraded to evacuation orders once the rain starts, so officials say to prepare now.

You can reach the Merced County Flood Hotline by calling (209) 385-7563.