Northern California Reservoir Drains Overnight Leaving Gasping Bass

One day the lake is there. The next it’s gone. That’s what residents around the Northern California community of Westwood experienced when their beloved Mountain Meadows Reservoir mysteriously drained overnight. 

Left in the shallows were thousands of large mouth bass and other non-native fish gasping for breath and eventually dying. The shallow reservoir as it is feeds into adjacent bodies of water and has seen water levels drop all year as a result of a record drought. But nothing prepared local fishermen and lake goers for the sudden loss as the water flowed out on Sept 13 like a bathtub. 

Pacific Gas & Electric, which owns the water rights to the reservoir, blamed an outlet valve at Indian Ole Dam. In most situations, the company would normally issue local notices at least two weeks prior. But apparently nothing requires them to do so in this case. The company did say it notified the water agency.

“It’s the situation we worked hard to avoid but the reality is we’re in a very serious drought, there’s also concerns for the fish downstream,” PG&E spokesman Paul Moreno told CBS Local in Sacramento.

But others are crying foul. Aaron Seandel, who chairs the local water quality committee told the Sacramento Bee he has been monitoring the water levels in Lake Almanor for 25 years, which flows from the reservoir in question. And although it has community agreements with the company over Alamanor and Bucks Lake, no such agreement axists with Mountain Meadows.

“Something went haywire,” Seandel told the paper.

The Montain Meadows reservoir is the upper-most storage facility in PG&E’s Feather River hydroelectric system and it’s been operating below minimum requirements since August, Ron Lunder, chairman of the Mountain Meadows Conservancy, told the Sacramento Bee.

“It was obvious early on they were going for broke” and continued releasing water instead of halting outflows when water levels dropped to the minimum, he said.