California's Biggest Reservoir Just Hit a Happy Milestone

Gates of Shasta Dam opened for first time in nearly 20 years
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 24, 2017 11:41 AM CST
Dam's Historic Release Could Signal Drought's End
Lake Shasta behind Shasta Dam on March 13, 2016.   (Nathan Solis/The Record Searchlight via AP)

For the first in almost two decades, water spilled from the top of Shasta Dam in California this week—another sign that the state's long drought is all but over. With Lake Shasta, California's largest reservoir, at 93% capacity, officials opened Shasta Dam's topmost gates one at a time on Wednesday, letting billions of gallons stream down its 602-foot facade over 15 minutes, per the Los Angeles Times. It was a test designed to see how the gates would perform should upcoming storms require their use; officials say they were in good working order despite last being opened in 1998, reports the Redding Record Searchlight.

Though the dam's three gates and 12 valves allowed 523,600 gallons of water to spill out of the reservoir per second, a rep for the Bureau of Reclamation says almost as much water is coming into the reservoir. That's one reason some experts are saying California's five-year drought is over. Not only is the reservoir at 135% of its historical average for February, per the Times, but several areas of California were under flood warnings with record amounts of rainfall this week, reports ABC News. "I believe that the drought is over at this point," says a US Geological Survey hydrologist. But others are more cautious, and the state water board hasn't gone that far yet. (More California stories.)

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