Heavy Rain Could Wash Rim Fire Debris Into Modesto Drinking Water

MODESTO (CBS13) – The first storm is set to hit the Sacramento area since thousands of acres of brush and trees burned in the Rim Fire in Yosemite National Park.

The raging Rim Fire has been out for more than two months, but it is what the charred forest left behind that remains a threat. A powerful storm could send trees, ash, and mud downstream into local water supplies.

So if the area sees an inch and a half of rain in 24 hours, the Turlock Irrigation District will use 1,200 feet of floating barriers to stop the debris in the Tuolumne River from flowing into the Don Pedro Reservoir.

“We run it across the channel. It catches wooded debris. You corral it in; tow it off with tugboats,” said Jason Carkeet, Turlock Irrigation District.

The district says the Rim Fire destroyed a quarter of the Tuolumne watershed, upstream from Don Pedro Lake, where Modesto gets some of its drinking water. The lake also supplies irrigation water for crops.

To help test water quality, a specialized gauge is being developed.

“It will test for various water quality perimeters, and tied with that will be another stream flow gauge installed,” said Carkeet.

The floating barrier at Don Pedro remains on standby. We will have to wait and see if the storm will create enough rain to put the plan into action.

The water agencies are working with experts to develop specialized gauges to take testing a step further.

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