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Lake Nacimento fills after recent rainfall

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Eric Johnson
Distribution Director

After five years of being dry, Lake Nacimiento – a popular spring break and summer get-away for Cuesta College students – is on the verge of overflowing.

In January alone, there was a total of 11.93 inches of rain, giving San Luis Obispo County more rain in one month than in 2016 as a whole.

The lake will be watched closely to make sure it will not exceed the maximum capacity of 800 feet elevation, according to the Monterey County Water Resources Agency. Nacimiento was recently recorded at being at 796.4 feet elevation on Feb. 23, leaving the lake 95 percent full.

With Nacimiento located in dry wine country, the California drought has affected the area drastically. The recent Chimney Fire, fueled by the drought, burned 46,344 acres and forced evacuations in the Nacimiento area.

Lake Nacimiento is known by most locals as “the dragon” because of its shape closely resembles a dragon. With the lake being 18 miles long and about 165 miles of shoreline, the lake has a private beach-like atmosphere; water temperatures averaging between 72 and 80 degrees, according to Lake Nacimiento Resort.

With 300 campsites and just about any lake activity available for rental, Lake Nacimiento Resort is a recreational area used for camping, hiking, fishing, and anything related to boating.

“I’m excited to get my jet ski’s out there, and knowing I have a place to go hopefully [for] spring break and summer is great,” said Dylan Smith, a second year biology major at Cuesta.

In April of 2011, the lake filled to 800.15 feet elevation and nearly had a spillover, according to data done by MCWRA. The lake has not been that full since.

With action set in place to control the water to avoid a spillover, MCWRA hasn’t had any problems in the past with spillovers.

“We are trying to contain the lake by the end of February,” said German Criollo, a representative of MCWRA.

The MCWRA’s biggest concern is controlling the water. They will continue making flood control releases up to 4,000 cubic feet per second from the Nacimiento Reservoir which flows into the Salinas River.

There hasn’t been any crews in the area of Lake Nacimiento for any reason.

“Debris going into the Salinas is about our only concern,” said Dennis Burns, Cal Fire captain.

Santa Margarita Lake has seen significant change in water levels in the past couple of months, filling 450 feet during the rainy season. Currently the lake is at 24,292 acre feet and is 101.9 percent full, according to San Luis Obispo County Water Resources.

Santa Margarita Lake has been consistently empty the past three years, along with other local lakes, staying under 5,000 acre feet, according to data done by San Luis Obispo County Water Resources.

A year ago the entire state of California was in a drought; currently, 44 percent of the state is no longer in the drought, according to the U.S. drought monitor.