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Trinity Lake sees long-awaited rebound with 2024 storms

Trinity Lake reservoir on rebound after years of drought
Trinity Lake reservoir on rebound after years of drought 03:16

TRINITY LAKE -- While many of California's reservoirs saw full recovery from the drought during last year's wet winter, there was one notable exception: Trinity Lake. The state's third largest reservoir did not rebound like the others. In fact, it might as well have been another year of drought for the people there, many of whom felt as if they'd been left out of that comeback winter. 

So Trinity really did need another big rainy season and, so far, they're getting it.

"The lake has come up a lot and we've been working on houseboats," said marina owner Darryl Marlin. "It's coming up probably a foot, foot and a half a day."

For Marlin, things are finally starting to look up as hopes rise with the water.

Trinity Lake, the one place in California where the drought didn't really end last year, is now back to its historical average and still rising.

"Actually, the ramp is in the water right now," Marlin explained. "It was out of the water this morning. Plus the forestry launch ramp, which -- for how many years has been out of the water? -- is finally back in the water."

The transformation here, in just nine months, is remarkable. For the folks who live on and make a living from the lake, it is long-awaited. While last year gave nearby Lake Shasta a full recovery, Trinity stayed well below average. Many locals like Marlin complained that too much water last year was released into the Trinity River.  And, with the lake soaring now, those voices seem to have been heard.

"Since all the complaining and everything, they're going to keep the water in the lake this year," Marlin said.

"We are 85 feet higher on Trinity than we were a year ago today," said Donald Bader, who oversees Lake Shasta and Trinity Lake for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Bader says Trinity, which is mostly fed from the surrounding snowpack, is currently benefiting from two solid years of precipitation.

"It's just the way the two years worked," he told KPIX. "We're doing minimal releases for our winter base flow just like we did last year. There's a lot of confusion about that."

Trinity Lake
Houseboats on Trinity Lake. KPIX

Releases into the river, he says, are by the book and, with Shasta at full storage, there is nothing to keep Trinity from rising through the spring and into the summer.

"Every last bit of water going into Trinity is going into storage," Bader said.

"I think the water will be up to this area right here where I've got this houseboat," Marlin said. "I'm positive it'll get this high, if they don't open the gates up again."

Marlin actually shut down his bar and grill at the height of the drought but he's hoping the rising water might get the doors open again. He says the phone is ringing and it's still raining.

"We've been getting calls left and right," he said. "A lot of people are asking if the lake is filling up. I've got a feeling it's gonna be a great year this year."

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