Mountain Meadows reservoir, better known as Walker Lake, is a popular fishing hole in Westwood, California. Despite the state’s long and increasingly serious drought, the 170 acre-feet reservoir has remained a popular haunt for nearby anglers. Yet on the night of September 12, residents say the lake mysteriously drained overnight.
What makes the sudden water shortage so strange was that just hours earlier, fishermen had been out on the lake. The reservoir’s sudden drainage left thousands of fish dead.
“It’s amazing how many people have come out to see the destruction,” resident Eddy Bauer told KTVN. “My wife, for instance, was holding her nose, can’t even stand the smell.”
The lake’s water rights belong to Pacific Gas and Electric Company, which denies having anything to do with the water’s disappearance. According to a company spokesperson, the water at the reservoir was previously utilized for hydroelectric power, although the company has not used the lake since March due to dropping water levels. The company estimated that the reservoir had at least two weeks of water left before the fish had to be evacuated, but the lake’s sudden drainage left thousands of fish stranded.
Some residents, including Bauer, accused the company of draining the lake overnight to avoid a costly fish relocation.
“It just makes me feel like they really didn’t want to do a fish rescue and that it was easier just to open that sucker up, Saturday night,” Bauer told CBS 13.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company denied increasing flows out of the reservoir. The company said it had been working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife since August in an attempt to create a buffer for the reservoir’s fish. Walker Lake is also an important stopover for migrating birds, which makes it especially important to wildlife biologists. Andrew Jensen, an environmental scientist with Fish and Wildlife, told Plumas County News that his office was working with the company to protect the reservoir and nearby wetlands.
“They were looking for input on how to minimize impact to the biological resources in the reservoir and downstream,” said Jensen.
As for why the lake suddenly drained, Jensen believes that it may have occured when a clogged outlet valve was cleared on September 10.
You can see footage of the reservoir below: