New Bullards Bar Dam outflow

Water outflow at New Bullards Bar Dam is seen on the North Yuba River on March 15.

Local water and energy agencies advise citizens to be cautious when using Northern California waterways for recreation this summer.

The California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. released a statement this week warning citizens to be alert when using or near rivers and streams because of the high level of snow melt pouring into the Yuba River.

"While the drought is not over, we have the best snowpack in years," said Ed Halpin, senior vice president of generation and chief nuclear officer for PG&E, in Monday's press release. "Water flows can fluctuate as snow melts faster on warmer days, so always be prepared for a change in conditions."

Snowpack measurements from winter and spring were greater than last year, the release said. As the snow melts, there will be "more and colder water than California has seen in several years."

Curt Aikens, general manager of the Yuba County Water Agency, said the water outflow from each of the dams has increased because of the snow melt.

While the high level of snowpack is beneficial to the region, Aikens also said there are risks associated with the rising temperatures.

"The past four years have been a drought, and people have become accustomed to slower flows," Aikens said. "Flows are higher than they have been in the past, and slightly higher flows and slightly colder water can pose problems."

Some of the issues to be aware of are unseen obstacles underwater, river and stream flows that can fluctuate depending on the temperature, and colder water that can impair a person's ability to swim. The increase in cold, swift currents creates treacherous conditions for swimmers, anglers, hikers and boaters.

"The month of May traditionally marks the beginning of boating season in California," said Lynn Sadler, deputy director of DBW, in Monday's press release.

"As we enjoy getting back out on and in the water, it is critical that we exercise extra caution and awareness, especially if venturing into unfamiliar waterways, or areas impacted by the drought."

Courtney Obergfell, general forecaster for the National Weather Service, said the high snowpack levels were important for the state's depleted reservoirs and lakes.

She said there is currently more room in the reservoirs for additional water and that flooding is not an issue.

Three dams along the Yuba River — New Bullards Bar, Englebright and Daguerre Point — are in place to monitor water outflow and help prevent flooding in the region.

New Bullards Bar Dam has experienced the biggest excess of water and is releasing its largest amount of outflow in years.

Compared to last year, Englebright Dam's outflow has more than doubled with about 2,600 cubic feet per second being released. Daguerre Point Dam, 12.3 miles southwest of Englebright Dam, is releasing the minimum amount of water, 2,000 cfps, more than three times the amount of last year's outflow.

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