According to the company, PG&E is keeping the lake’s water levels low to continue completing repairs and inspections on the aging infrastructure.

McCloud residents and visiting outdoor enthusiasts have noticed that the water levels at the McCloud Reservoir have been exceptionally low this season despite high inflows into the lake and comments by Pacific Gas & Electric that the lake would be back to normal operation by October 2019.

In addition, the road from the McCloud Reservoir to the Iron Canyon Reservoir has been closed off to the public.

According to the company, PG&E is keeping the lake’s water levels low to continue completing repairs and inspections on the aging infrastructure.

“(Levels are low) while in the process of improvements, repairs and inspections to the dam and the spillway that are necessary for the long term,” said Paul Moreno, PG&E Marketing and Communication Principal in Chico.

In 2017, lake levels were lowered by PG&E in order to dredge a sandbar in the lakebed.

While PG&E is evaluating potential alternatives, the company does not have a timeframe for the completion of the project.

“The McCloud Reservoir dam was built in the 1960s and no longer meets the modern spillway standards,” said Moreno. “Divers were on site in November and December to support inspection, maintenance, and repairs to the dam’s low-level water outlet. The outlet was successfully tested in January and is fully functional.”

The earth and rock dam that holds back McCloud reservoir was built in 1965 and can hold 35,300 acre feet of water when filled.

Moreno says that the low levels are within the allowed range permitted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. PG&E claims it is keeping levels low to reduce the frequency and volume of water released in the spillway.

As of the beginning of month, inflows into the lake were measured at 775 cubic feet per second. Outflows below the reservoir were measured at 203 cfs.

“PG&E volunteered to modify the reservoir procedure operations to reduce the use of the spillway until the studies are complete,” said Moreno.

The target winter elevation is 13.2 feet below the spillway crest which is within normal operating range, and this lowered level will continue during the additional studies, modifications and improvements for the spillway. Normal elevation of the reservoir is 2,700 feet, while low-level limits range from 2,635 to 2,645 feet according to FERC. Currently, the reservoir levels are at 2,641.46 feet.

McCloud Reservoir Basin is part of the McCloud-Pit Hydroelectric Project. There is a tunnel carrying water from McCloud Reservoir to the Iron Canyon Reservoir. PG&E is permitted to remove 2,000 cfs from the McCloud reservoir and pipe this water to the Iron Canyon reservoir for use in generating electricity along the Pit River.

To follow the water levels of the McCloud Reservoir, go to www.cdec.water.ca.gov. Go to Query Tools, then Daily Data, then type in MCO.

While the water pipeline connecting the reservoirs is operating normally, the road connecting the McCloud and Iron Canyon reservoirs has also been closed. This road, which is used by the public for recreational purposes, has been closed by the Forest Service due to dangerous conditions.

Two areas along the road are “eroding and sloughing off into the river,” said US Forest Service Information Specialist David Wolfe. “The road is closed for public safety, but people can walk on the road.”

There have been road repair discussions between PG&E and the Forest Service. A geological technical study has been done. “The engineering plan will take a lot of work,” said Wolfe.

There are no expectations of when the road will be reopened at this time.

Every year prior to and during the lake’s recreation season the Forest Service performs maintenance on the dock of the McCloud Reservoir. Due to the low lake levels the dock has been removed. Two years ago, McCloud residents voluntarily fixed and updated the dock.

Continued low reservoir levels will have a negative impact on recreational fishing and boating during the spring and summer months.