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Yuba River flowing high and cold with broken pipes unable to divert water

Yuba River running high due to broken pipes
Yuba River running high due to broken pipes 02:35

NEVADA COUNTY — The weather is getting warmer and our rivers are looking more beautiful than ever from our wet winter, but cold water temperatures from snow runoff bring danger.

The Yuba River is especially high right now due to two broken pipes that can no longer divert water.

A lot of people might have the same idea: the weather is warm, so why not check out the river? But for now, it might be best to enjoy the beauty with your eyes rather than go for a swim.

"This year might be different because of the canal problems," said Yuba River State Park visitor Tracie Hicks. "It's really high today and fast."

"I think what people will experience if they are recreating along the south and the middle Yuba River is they're going to see an increased flow at this time, and the duration is longer and the water is a lot colder," said Greg Jones with the Nevada Irrigation District.

That's because the water that would normally flow through the Yuba and Drum canals into reservoirs in Placer and Nevada counties can't get there after the pipes were damaged in a rockslide.

"We are unable to receive that snowmelt through the PG&E equipment, and so that water then, instead of reducing and going through those facilities, they're spilling over the spillways and going into both the middle Yuba River and the south Yuba River," Jones said.

The broken Pacific Gas and Electric canal pipes are expected to be repaired in mid-June, and for now, people in Placer and Nevada counties have been asked to voluntarily conserve water. With the high flows and low temperatures, it's best to stay clear of the Yuba River for now.

"It takes your breath away and it'll freeze up all your muscles," said Michael Ridout, another Yuba River State Park visitor.

"If you're going to get in – well, not this time of year because the water is flowing too fast – but if you get in later, then wear a life jacket. Stay close to shore. Watch out for the whirlpools because they're everywhere," said Dalles Hill, another park visitor.

The Nevada Irrigation District said it meets weekly with PG&E for updates on repairs to the canals. They say they're confident in that mid-June date but if it takes longer they could start imposing mandatory water conservation measures. 

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