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El Nino Leaves Much of Drought-Stricken California in Dust

Ed Heinlein surveys the steep mountainside that has repeatedly unleashed tons of mud into the backyard of his Southern California home since a 2014 wildfire and still hopes the drought-stricken state gets more rain.

“We have to have the rain,” said Heinlein, whose home east of Los Angeles has become a poster child for the region’s cycle of fire and flood. “It’s bad for us but it’s desperate for the state.” Heinlein’s wish for rain may get answered this weekend, when forecasts call for a strong storm to bring rain and snow throughout California.

Snowfall Could be Measured in Feet Across Sierra During ‘Miracle March’ Storms

A series of Pacific storms are lined up in the forecast for California over the next week with the potential to dump a truckload of snow on the Sierra mountains. Over the next two weeks, forecast models are suggesting the potential for more than five feet of snow across the Sierra crest — much-needed precipitation at the end of a winter that has not lived up to El Niño hype.

The weather pattern has shifted significantly since February, when record high temperatures were set across Southern California and rainfall totals were well below average.

Questions Remain on Plans for Sites Reservoir

Questions remain about plans to build Sites Reservoir. This week the Butte County Water Commission was asked to approve a letter of support for the project to build a new surface water storage reservoir near Maxwell. Soon, the State Water Commission plans to distribute some of the Proposition 1 funds, and the project could receive a chunk of money for part of the pre-building process.

During the discussion Wednesday, most members of the Water Commission appeared to approve of the concept for Sites Reservoir. Yet, the majority of the group also wanted to add their questions to a letter of support.

Floodplain Experiment Points to Water Policy Solutions to Support Both Salmon Recovery and Agriculture

UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, the California Department of Water Resources and non-profit organization California Trout have launched an expanded experiment to better understand how the Sacramento River system can support healthy salmon populations.

For the first time this year, the agricultural floodplain habitat experiment will compare food web productivity and fish growth in three different kinds of river habitat.

California’s Largest Reservoirs Still Well Below Average

California’s largest reservoirs act as a report card for water officials, and unfortunately the grades aren’t very high right now. “Looking at that graph is a good snapshot of how they’re looking, and they’re not looking so good right now,” Doug Carlson with the California Department of Water Resources said.

Rainfall totals and snowpack levels can make it difficult to figure out exactly how the state is fairing against the drought. One of the best indicators of how the state is doing is Lake Oroville in Butte County – the second largest reservoir in California. As of today, it’s about 25 percent below average.

Wet Winter Invites Flooding Research on Valley Farms

Area farmers report that any flooding of their nut and fruit orchards during the current El Niño condition would likely do more good than damage to their trees. In fact, some farmers plan to deliberately flood their orchards as part of testing the benefits of winter flooding.

By doing so, they not only ensure the trees have enough water, but they are also helping recharge the groundwater basin in winter when more water is available. California gets its bulk of rainwater from December to March. This year some storms caused brief flooding on farms.

Strong Winter Storm to Bring Several Feet of Snow to Sierra Nevada, Lake Tahoe

An atmospheric river drawing moisture from the tropics is expected to blanket the Sierra Nevada and Lake Tahoe area with more than 3 feet of snow through the weekend, forecasters say.

The strong winter storm will start off light Friday night with snow levels at 7,500 to 8,000 feet through Saturday, said meteorologist Tony Fuentes of the National Weather Service in Reno. Up to 3 feet of snow could cover the Sierra crest.