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Trinity Lake

Trinity River Fishery Restoration Release Information
(Note, these are release numbers in the data below for Lewiston Dam to the Trinity River, not Trinity Lake release numbers. The total Trinity Lake release equals the water allocated to Lewiston for river release and the water going into Lewiston for the Sacramento Valley release.)

The total release from Trinity Lake for fishery restoration in 2010 was 647,000 acre feet.

In the water year that ended September 30, 2010, due to maintenance on the Carr Tunnel, the USBR took less than 1/2 of their normal allocation. This amounted to less than 300,000 acre feet. This fact, coupled with the late spring precipitation that was not forecasted by the Bureau, is why we had such a good year for recreation. We were lucky.

Reference Information

Historic Information

Trinity Lake is the heart of our communities. The lake provides recreation, electrical power, and tranquility. The lake is man-made, it is a reservoir. It provides us with the major attraction for visitors since the U.S. Forest Service decimated the logging industry in Northern California, and gives residents a sense of identity — we are the North Lake communities

However, we are much more than a lake resort area. We have so much to offer to our residents and our visitors. Our lake level is dependent on climate and politics. Some things we can influence, but most we cannot.

Most of this website is dedicated to all of the beauty, vitality, activity, community, and lifestyle of the North Lake area. This section, however, focuses on the lake — the history, management, status, and political environment in which our lake exists.

Note that in all of our material, we refer to the Trinity River Restoration Project as a "fishery restoration." In no way is it a "river restoration." The river is not being restored — it is being human-engineered as a scientific experiment to see if humans can entice salmon to come back to the Trinity River and spawn in large numbers.

The river bed is being mechanically engineered; the vegetation is being bulldozed and replanted; the river flows are being engineered by guessing what will be best for fish and for the river habitat. Thus, there is no restoring of the river. The river is being engineered through experimentation to see if the actions taken will restore the fish numbers.

Hence, it is a fishery restoration, not a river restoration. To restore the river to what it was before it was damaged by decades of mining, logging, and abuse would be a monumental task that not even the environmental movement is advocating.

2013 Late-Summer Supplemental Water Release from Trinity Dam

Water Year 2013A Lot of Water Was Saved!

Websites and Documents for Fish Monitoring, River Levels and Temperatures, and Return Forecast


USBR and Court Documents

TLRA submitted comments on both documents to the USBR and Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on July 31, 2013.

TRLA has a voting seat on the Trinity River advisory committee, know as the Trinity River Adaptive Management Working Group (TAMWG), attends TMC meetings, and is a member of the Trinity Count Collaborative Group.

2011's HR 1837 was bad for Trinity lake

You made a difference! Thank you to everyone who contacted their Congressmen!

This bill died in committee, but we need to watch for other versions popping up in Congress and in the State.

Letter: TLRA's opposition letter

Responses to our letter (most representatives just sent a canned reply.) George Miller, Jim Costa, Jeff Denham


2011 Water Year Was "Wet"!!

Water year 2011 got off to a good start with a wet October and November. However, after New Years, the spigot turned off, and we had an extremely dry January and early February. Starting in late February through March, we had a very wet late winter and early Spring. We were pushed from a normal-trending-to-dry year into a wet-trending-to-extremely-wet year. The precipitation stopped at the end of March, and left us at the high end of "wet".

In a wet year, the fishery restoration is allocated 701,000 acre-feet of our lake water. That is 54,000 af more than a normal year (see below for a discussion of 2010). 54,000 af translates roughly to 5 feet of lake elevation at the levels it will be at later in the summer. However, remember that the fishery restoration project is supposed to get only 48% of the outflow of Trinity Lake. Therefore, the Bureau could take an additional 58,500 af for the Central Valley. Thus, the difference between a "normal" year and a "wet" year could be about 11 or 12 feet of elevation loss of lake level.

The "good" news is that the Bureau is still doing maintenance on the Carr tunnel and powerhouse, and they will not be able to take all of the water they technically could take. Also, Shasta Lake should fill up this spring, so that the Central Valley Project should take Shasta water before Trinity water.

The bottom line is that we should have a very good recreation season on Trinity Lake in 2011. Using Bureau's forecast for the lake level over the summer, Trinity Center ramp should remain in the water and usable all season.

See the new 2011 Water Year page.

2010 Water Year Was "Normal"!!
The California Department of Water Resources determined that last water year was a "normal" year, not a "wet" year. (The "water year" ends September 30.) The difference between "normal" and "wet" is 54,000 less acre-feet of water being sent down the river. The DWR forecasted that 1.31 million acre-feet of water would flow into the lake by September 30. The threshold for a "wet" year is 1.53 million acre-feet. In a "normal" year, 647,000 acre-feet are sent down the river for fishery restoration.

Moreover, due to scheduled maintenance on the Carr Powerplants, the Bureau used less than half of what they normally do for the Central Valley. That meant over 350,000 acre-feet were retained in the lake.

We had a wet Spring after April 1. That helped us. The DWR and Bureau determine the type of water year based on forecasts available April 1 each year. The actual precipitation that occurs after April 1 is not considered part of the planning. If the Spring is much wetter than forecast, as happened in 2010, then it is a bonus for the lake and for recreation — that extra water cannot be used by the fishery restoration. In some years, the Spring is drier than forecast, as happened in 2008, and the lake is penalized. In such years, the restoration project takes its water regardless of drought (or common sense.) This effect, combined with a dry 2009, is why the lake was so low in 2009.

Strong, warm springtime winds are not helpful — they evaporate the snow before it can melt and run off. There were several sunny days with warm wind in the Spring of 2010, and though pleasant, that weather did not help the water situaion. Despite the wind, we had a good year in 2010.

Historical Water Year Designations
The designatin of "water years" went into effect with the signing of the Trinity River Restoration Project Record of Decision in 2000. The water year designations were:
2022Critically Dry
2021Critically Dry
2020Critically Dry
2018Critically Dry
2017Extremely wet
2014Critically Dry
2006Extremely wet

Action is Needed Now to Save and Revitalize our Lake and Community
The North Lake communities are similar to many rural areas of our country. We face the lack of jobs, business closings, loss of full-time residents, and absentee landlords hijacking key commercial real estate.

In the upcoming months, meetings will be held in the north lake area to discuss our issues, brainstorm solutions, and work out a game plan in the context of the General Plan update. Since the County General Plan and Community Plans will be in the update process, we must be creatively proactive and speak with a united, loud voice to to effect change.

Become a "Save Trinity Lake's Water" Activist ...
If we have any chance of keeping adequate water in Trinity Lake until the Fall each year and propping up our fragile economy, we all must be come engaged in the battle.

Remember that Trinity Lake is not managed by California. The lake releases are managed by the USBR and the lake usage by the USFS.

The players in the battle for the lake water include power generators, huge agribusiness corporations, southern California water districts, and the Endangered Species Act.

Water Flows to Money

You can follow the lake water discussion on the NorthTrinityLake Online Roundtable. Register and subscribe to the Trinity Lake forum. (The subscribe option is at the very bottom of the forum table of contents.)

Suggested reading:

The Trinity Lake water management process and Trinity fishery restoration funding and oversight is a tangled mess. It is hard to figure out who manages what, what piece of legislation (or court case) trumps the other, and who is in charge. So here are some places to start your reading. Remember that each group is biased, but these sites help us to understand the battle:

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