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Shasta Lake nearly filled to the brim following remarkable winter turnaround

Shasta Lake nearly full following remarkable rainy season
Shasta Lake nearly full following remarkable rainy season 07:23

SHASTA LAKE, Shasta County -- If you want to measure the success of this winter, California's largest reservoir is a good way to do it. As of Friday, Shasta is about three feet away from full, and that's a foot higher than where it was on Monday. 

ALSO READ: Remote Northern California reservoir stuck in drought despite winter's water wealth

So it really is a full comeback in a matter of months. And yes, some people had absolute faith that this was coming, such as Harold Jones, who was busy this week readying two giant tanks of fish with final feeding before releasing them into the lake.

"We just wanna keep these fish in here and let them get big," Jones said.

That's because this lake is now expecting a flood of people looking to catch fish, after the very big winter.

"Oh, wonderful winter," he laughed, looking at the full lake. "Liquid assets."

Shasta Lake, May 2023 CBS

For Jones and his Sugarloaf Cottages, rooms have already filled up with the lake. The last time we were here was in mid-January after the first round of storms gave Shasta an initial jolt. 

ALSO READ: Rising spring temperatures trigger Sierra snowmelt flood fears; 'We know the heat's coming'

"Oh, another stretch like that and will be, my docks, they'll be sitting right up here right in front of the cabinets," Jones said of the rising lake in January. 

Perhaps even more impressive was Jones' optimism back in October, when the lake was at 30% capacity.

"One good winter and the water will be pretty much back up towards where those trees here are," he said at the time.

ALSO READ: Reborn from record winter, Tulare Lake could see explosive growth from snowmelt

Jones said he saw it was coming, and he was right.

"I did," he said standing by the water, and that treeline. "People always say it's gonna take a long time to fill this lake and all it takes is one good winter and this obviously shows that it can be done."

Back in January KPIX also checked in on the Charlie Creek Bridge, which got a second layer thrown on top of it back in 1925 when they created the lake. And now one can see why they need it. The lower bridge is submerged, a perfect illustration of how this lake is maxing out. 

"We're looking to match our outflows with the inflow over the next week," explained Levi Johnson with the Bureau of Reclamation. "We have room to maneuver. Flows are not that high on the Sacramento [River] right now. And will be tracking that and making adjustments to operations as necessary."

The Bureau of Reclamation is increasing releases to balance the lake at full. And a full lake is great news for the entire state, everyone from valley farmers to customers in the Contra Costa Water District.

"This bodes incredibly well for California water supplies in general," Johnson said. "It also bodes very well for fish species that rely on the cold water pool that we release out of Shasta through the summer for those endangered fish. So great news all around."

"It's just staggering, the size of this lake, and to see that much water coming in with the storms this year," said Scott Skipper of Basshole Brews in Lakehead. "Amazing, and it's gonna be an amazing year up here."

On the recreation side of things, drought is about the biggest challenge they can face here.

"Covid didn't seem to bother us as much as a low lake," said Skipper of the slow years.

So nothing is better publicity than the views drivers are now getting from Interstate 5, and that's already creating more phone calls, more reservations, and a lot of optimism for the summer ahead. 

"It's gonna be good for everyone after a couple years of low little water," Jones said of the comeback. "We all need to have a good year under our belts."

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