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In the News -
Friday, JUNE 8, 2007
Only in the
June 8 print edition:
Rivers Union School
Rivers students from
of 2007 (portraits and article)
As difficult as it might be to imagine after a mild winter,
snow and ice remain hazardous to high country hikers and those who venture
into the Kaweah River in the lower elevations. Last week, three separate
incidents in Sequoia National Park revealed how dangerous the spring-like
conditions are and likely to remain until the snow in the nearby mountains
On Sunday, May 27, a woman in her early 20s waded into the
Middle Fork of the Kaweah River near Hospital Rock and was immediately
swept downstream in the same vicinity where several swimmers have drowned
in recent years. The woman tumbled more than 100 feet through a series
of rapids before several bystanders pulled her to safety.
In a backpacking incident at the end of May, a couple on
a three-day hike in the Sequoia backcountry encountered a snowfield that
covered a steep section of trail. Unprepared to cross the slippery slope,
the hikers made the intelligent decision to hike an extra 18 miles around
via a snow-free route.
The detour delayed their return so family members contacted
the park to inquire about the couple’s whereabouts. A day later,
on May 29, exhausted but confident they had made the right decision, the
couple was greeted by a search helicopter and 20 rescuers two miles from
their Mineral King trailhead.
The next day, Ash Mountain rangers were called to assist
a Visalia man who had fallen into rapids near park headquarters. That
vicinity was the scene of a tragic drowning as recently as 2005.
Late-season storms in April dumped some snow in the nearby
mountains, especially in elevations above 9,000 feet. Coupled with the
fact that temperatures in the higher elevations have been consistently
below freezing at night, the snow that is extant is just starting to melt.
Lakes like Monarch (9,600 feet) in the Mineral King area
remain partially frozen and many trails and the north side of passes are
snow covered. As that snow in the high country melts, it can cause rivers
and streams in the lower elevations to become more treacherous in the
late-afternoon, the most inviting part of the day to take a dip in the
Hikers, swimmers, and especially children should stay away
from swift-moving water that’s likely to be around until mid-July,
depending on the duration of any triple digit temperatures. Drowning is
the leading cause of death in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
The Lake Kaweah basin is like a huge bathtub. Each spring,
seasonal rainfall and a melting snowpack fill the flood-control facility
as weather permits.
Since the basin was expanded in 2004, as much as 186,000
acre feet can be stored at capacity. Once the basin is filled on or around
June 1, the Kaweah Delta Conservation District, which controls the distribution
of the water for downstream agricultural users, begins their annual ritual
of pulling the proverbial plug.
How suddenly Lake Kaweah water is discharged is dependent
on several factors like how much water is projected to flow in the Kaweah
drainage during the current season and also what was available last year.
At midnight on Tuesday, June 5, and into the predawn hours
of the following morning, Lake Kaweah reached its peak storage for the
season and began its downward trend. The 20 percent snowpack of the current
season translated to a slightly lower storage level (131,000 a.f.) than
the 145,000 acre feet that was predicted.
How fast the basin is drained, and the eventual minimum pool,
is dependent on some variables, one of which is weather.
haven’t been advised to the immediate needs of the Kaweah district
but we are hearing that we are in for record heat this summer,”
said Phil Deffenbaugh, general manager at Lake Kaweah. “We can expect
that by late August or early September we will be looking at a minimum
pool of 10,000 acre feet but it could go lower.”
Any storage below 7,000 acre feet and the lake becomes little
more than a mud puddle. As of Wednesday, the average inflow of the Kaweah
drainage into the lake was 476 cubic feet per second (cfs); the outflow
was 723 cfs.
was plenty of water for everyone to enjoy the Memorial Day weekend,”
said Deffenbaugh. “The campground at Horse Creek was full and that
was an area we have been unable to use for the past two years on Memorial
Deffenbaugh said that Lake Kaweah park rangers also noticed
an increase of users at Slick Rock that would normally be using the North
Fork recreation sites that were recently closed by the Bureau of Land
folks were permitted to use the Slick Rock area fee-free,” Deffenbaugh
said. “That will not be the case once we complete our improvements
there by the end of 2007. There will be a $4 per vehicle day-use fee similar
to what is required at the other recreation areas at Lake Kaweah.”
Even the timing of the Memorial Day fire was good because
by Monday afternoon most visitors had left.
that fire would have started on Sunday it would have been a really big
mess on Highway 198 trying to get all that equipment in and out,”
Deffenbaugh also reported that all the property acquisition
questions in the Slick Rock area have now been resolved and he expects
the $1.5 million Cal Boating project to begin by the end of the summer.
The construction calls for a new boat ramp, parking lot, restrooms, and
site accommodations for a host.
3R man named
of the Year
Bruce Keller of Three Rivers, a teacher for the past four
years at La Sierra High School in Porterville, was invited to a gathering
under false pretenses. He thought he was called upon to urge his students
to place yearbook orders, but Jan Mekeel, principal, and other covert
operatives had another idea.
As Bruce took care of business and prepared to leave the
room, Principal Mekeel stopped him by saying, “We have one more
bit of business.”
She introduced the editor of the Porterville Recorder, who
with a Newspapers in Education coordinator, presented Bruce with the NIE
2007 “Teacher of the Year” award.
During the emotional ceremony attended by his wife, Shirley,
and son, it was revealed that Keller has used newspapers in his classrooms
for 20 years to provide students with perspective as well as teaching
them to be free thinkers.
Every Tuesday morning from June 12 to August 7, Leah Catherine
Launey and Peter Sodhy, owners of the Three Rivers Bed and Breakfast,
will open their pool to the youth of Three Rivers.
thought of living in a little town with no municipal pool drives me crazy!,”
said Leah Catherine. “I have a pool, so we’re offering.”
Older teens will have the opportunity to earn community service
hours by assisting the adults. They are needed to help supervise those
who are swimming and directing games and activities for those who aren’t.
The Three Rivers Swim Club is free to all. For more information
or to volunteer, call Maria Howell, 561-3703.
This year’s Vacation Bible School has been scheduled
for Monday through Friday, July 23 to 27, from 8:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
The day camp will accommodate children from pre-kindergarten through sixth
VBS will be held at St. Anthony Retreat. This year’s
theme is “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” based on
the classic book by C.S. Lewis that, most recently, was an Oscar-winning
To register, volunteer, or donate set decorations, call Chris
Leyva, 561-3451; Portia Gunnerud, 561-3302; or Arlin Talley, 561-3385.