Water forum tackles drought


A packed house attended the special Town Hall meeting held Monday evening, Aug. 3, at the Three Rivers Memorial Building. Tom Sparks, on behalf of the Three Rivers Village Foundation, conducted the meeting; new Foundation board members Laile Di Silvestro and Dean Stryd assembled the panel of eight speakers and handled the evening’s logistics.

Historical perspective Jim Barton, 91, and a native of Three Rivers, discussed what it was like for his family who has lived on the North Fork in Three Rivers since the 1870s. He cited old rainfall records for July kept by his father, Bob Barton, and said that this past July saw more rainfall than any other July for the past 75 years and conceivably all the Julys put together.

Jim spoke about the 1867 flood and landslide on the South Fork that created a giant sequoia log jam from Garfield Grove. The result of that flood, when the jam gave way, was that all the prime farm land where the South Fork meets Old Three Rivers became one large sandbar.

He also cited the work of Charles Nordhoff who published his observations of California in 1873.

“California is subject to droughts. Experience shows so far that there are about seven good years out of ten,” Nordhoff wrote.

Jim also recounted his first-hand experiences with several floods, the first one being in 1937 when he was in the eighth grade. Another major flood occurred in 1955 when riverfront homes and bridges were washed away.

Jim concluded his remarks by saying that dry years and floods have always been a part of life in Three Rivers for as long as his family has been here.

NPS water reports— Next up was Don Seale, hydrologist for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Seale cited two NPS studies, one that looked at water quality in the wilderness and an ongoing study that collects water flow data. Two new stream gauges that collect flow data via satellite in real time have been installed in the Kings River (Kings Canyon) and in the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River (Sequoia).

The wilderness water quality study, completed in 2013, found that backcountry water is “remarkably good,” Seale said. 

“Pack stock are not impacting water quality,” Seale said. “Water samples from the park to Lake Kaweah are collected and analyzed by the State Water Resources Control Board personnel several times a month during the summer.”

Seale said what they are looking for is levels of E. coli bacteria and the levels in the Kaweah watershed in the summer are typically in single digits so that’s an acceptable level.

To be continued…

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