top of page
  • Writer's pictureTerri Pugh

April 13, 2023 - Your Scoop in CDR!

Tulare Lake Was Drained Off the Map. Nature Would Like a Word. We encourage you to read this entire New York Times article! This is only a small part of an excellent piece. It is no secret to locals that the heart of California’s Central Valley was once the largest body of fresh water west of the Mississippi River, dammed and drained into an empire of farms by the mid-20th century.

Still, even longtime residents have been staggered this year by the brute swiftness with which Tulare Lake has resurfaced: In less than three weeks, a parched expanse of 30 square miles has been transformed by furious storms into a vast and rising sea.

The lake’s rebirth has become a slow-motion disaster for farmers and residents in Kings County, home to 152,000 residents and a $2 billion agricultural industry that sends cotton, tomatoes, safflower, pistachios, milk and more around the planet. The wider and deeper Tulare Lake gets, the greater the risk that entire harvests will be lost, homes will be submerged and businesses will go under.

Across the region, the surprise barrage of atmospheric rivers that swept through California over the past three months already has saturated the ground, overflowed canals and burst through levees. The fear now is that record walls of snow in the southern Sierra Nevada will liquefy in the intensifying spring heat into a downhill torrent that will inundate the Central Valley.

Around the farm and prison town of Corcoran, gray-blue waves now whoosh surreally to the horizon. Snowy white birds soar over dirt levees that, so far, are shielding some 22,000 residents and inmates. Submerged fields lie bereft of the tomatoes and Pima cotton that would ordinarily fill them, an agricultural Atlantis larger than Manhattan.

The lake bed is essentially a 790-square-mile bathtub — the size of four Lake Tahoes — that dates back to the Ice Age. Mammoths once sipped at Tulare Lake’s shores, and tule elk ranged in its marshlands.

In 1983, when a long-lasting snowmelt submerged about 130 square miles of the lake bed, the damage just in Kings County cost nearly $300 million in today’s dollars, and the water took two years to clear, according to John T. Austin, the author of “Floods and Droughts in the Tulare Lake Basin,” a book about the region. That summer, two men kayaked through the floodwaters from the banks of the Kern River just outside downtown Bakersfield to the San Francisco Bay, a meandering 450-mile journey across what would typically be sun-baked land.

Since then, the population has roughly doubled, both in Kings County and in the surrounding San Joaquin Valley that includes Fresno and Merced, a region that is now home to about three million people.

“This will impact the world, if people can just grasp that,” Sheriff Robinson said at a news conference after asking the public to stop using the lake for boating. “We’re going to have a million acre-foot of water covering up an area that feeds the world.”

DOE Innovator’s Prize DOE’s Fossil Energy and Carbon Management- The Direct Air Capture (DAC) Energy Program for Innovation Clusters (EPIC) Prize offers up to $3.7 million in cash prizes to incubators and accelerators with impactful ideas to develop resources for energy startups and direct air capture entrepreneurs. The prize supports solutions that have the potential to accelerate regional economic development and strengthen national direct air capture innovation capacity through networking, business planning, and much more.

2 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page