With Water Level Falling, Power Plant Has to Shut

California blames drought, driven by climate change
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 7, 2021 2:00 PM CDT
Blaming Drought, State Shuts Hydroelectric Plant
Satellite images shows the water level at intake gates at Lake Oroville in California on June 5, 2020, top, and Wednesday.   (Satellite image ?2021 Maxar Technologies via AP)

Californians could face more rolling power blackouts after a major source of electricity had to shut down. Water levels at Lake Oroville fell to close to the minimum to keep the Hyatt Power Plant operating, CNBC reports, reaching the lowest point since the plant opened in 1967. The plant, which is 75 miles north of Sacramento, can't produce power once the water drops to 640 feet above sea level, officials have warned. On Thursday, the level was 641 feet, per the Los Angeles Times. "There's low and then there’s low. And now it’s gone," said a former Los Angeles water official. "It's a big deal." With the tallest dam in the nation on the lake, a large system sends water coming from the mountains to the rest of the state. But now, little water is reaching the lake.

Officials blame the drought, worsened by the effects of climate change. "This is just one of many unprecedented impacts we are experiencing in California as a result of our climate-induced drought," the state's top water official said. Expecting the level to fall to as low as 620 feet above sea level in October, officials are trying to store as much water as possible. Replacing the power lost from the lake plant isn't feasible, they said: The new source probably would cost more, be less efficient, and result in higher emissions. The lake was nearly full at one point in 2017, but the storms that brought that rain also damaged the spillways used to manage the water levels. Gov. Gavin Newsom asked Californians last month to cut their water use by 15%. (More California drought stories.)

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