Snowpack above average in 2019

By Ashley Loza
Kern Valley Sun

Photo by Ashley Loza / Kern Valley Sun
Snow piles up on the side of SR-155 on the way to Alta Sierra.

Snow is piling up on the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and so far, the Kern River Valley’s water future looks promising.

After a 5-year drought that brought Isabella Lake to minimum pool and the Kern River to a trickle, the valley experienced an extra wet winter for 2016-17 that brought the lake back to its current allowable capacity under the Isabella Dam Safety Modification Project (DSMP) of about 360,000 acre feet.

In October 2018, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began allowing for a lake draw down to accommodate the sealing of the Borel Canal through Auxiliary Dam as part of the DSMP. Now that this phase of the project is complete, the plan is to let the lake fill to its reduced capacity again as work continues elsewhere.

The outlook is positive for such a fill – as of press time, California’s statewide snowfall is at 110 percent of its February average and 69 percent of its April average, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

The Kern River Basin, where the Kern River originates, is sitting at 134 percent of its February average and 82 percent of its April average.

While some basins in California are still hovering in the 60 to 70 percent range for their February averages, most are measuring at nearly 100 percent, with a handful exceeding that.

This is an improvement over February 2018, which landed at a 25 percent statewide average.

For more information on this year’s snow levels and previous years reports, visit the California Department of Water Resources online at

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