McCloud Lake low despite high rain totals

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald
The U.S. Forest Service took out the boat ramp earlier this month because McCloud Lake’s water levels are too low, leaving some to wonder why the lake has been drawn down so far with two months left in the trout season

Despite the highest rainfall of any watershed in California this year, the water level at Lake McCloud is too low to launch a boat with two months of the trout season remaining.

Water is diverted from Lake McCloud via a pipe to Iron Canyon Reservoir, then released to the Pit River, where Pacific Power creates electricity through its hydro-turbines.

The lake level for mid-September is the lowest that anybody in McCloud can remember it since the reservoir was created in 1965. The water has been dropped so low that the U.S. Forest Service had to remove the boat ramp in early September.

At the same time, the McCloud watershed has had some of the highest rain and snow totals ever documented or the area.

As the week started, the gauge at Stouts Meadow on the upper McCloud had recorded 129.03 inches of precipitation for the year, the highest in California. This was a first for the area, and at the McCloud Dam, the gauge recorded 82.47 inches.

Some in the community worry that the low levels could harm the lake’s rare native trout fishery and the lake’s ability to support a rich aquatic food chain. They question Pacific Power’s decision to lower the lake to its current level.

The lake has a unique strain of micro freshwater crustacean, which can appear near the surface as bands of a brownish tint, Upon close inspection, is filled with a micro-like shrimp organism.

This helps support wild strains of rainbow trout and brown trout, which could be put at risk with low water levels, and in turn, reduced carrying capacity of the habitat. In addition, the rare McCloud Redband, a state-listed species of special concern, lives in the upper McCloud.