Lake Mendocino nears winter capacity; Lake Sonoma close behind


Recent rainstorms have swelled Lake Mendocino, reopening the reservoir to motor boats for the first time since August, swallowing islands raised by the drought and bringing fresh hope to ranchers and water officials.

By Thursday afternoon, the lake had reached 98 percent of capacity for this time of the year, when some space is reserved in the reservoir to help with flood prevention.

Once the level hits 100 percent, dam managers must increase releases to keep it at that level, unless they are given permission to hold back additional supplies.

In March, the reservoir’s storage capacity will rise from 68,400 acre-feet to about 110,000 acre-feet, a change aimed at maintaining adequate water supplies throughout the dry season for people, fish and agriculture along the Russian River. The key to recovery from the drought is filling the reservoir to its maximum capacity in the spring.

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