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Kaweah Kam


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In the News - Friday, JUNE 8, 2007

Only in the June 8 print edition:

Three Rivers Union School

Class of 2007

(portraits and awards)

Three Rivers students from

Exeter High School's

Class of 2007 (portraits and article)


Snow, water

pose dangers

   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 is melted.
   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 river.
   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.

Lake Kaweah

storage peaks

   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.

  “We 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.

  “There 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 Day.”
   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 Management.

  “Those 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.

  “If 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 said.
   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

Teacher 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.

B&B announces

public pool days

   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.

  “The 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.

Register now

for VBS 2007

   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 grade.
   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 movie.
   To register, volunteer, or donate set decorations, call Chris Leyva, 561-3451; Portia Gunnerud, 561-3302; or Arlin Talley, 561-3385.

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
OFFICE: 41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, California
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