OAKDALE (CBS13) — California’s devastating drought is fueling a battle over water at Lake Tulloch, where feds want to release water from the lake to protect fisheries, but residents nearby don’t want it to happen.

Homeowners say the move could cause serious environmental problems.

The level in the lake is currently where it should be this time of year, but water levels in the river below the dam are low. The river is home to the endangered steelhead trout, and the federal government wants to save the fish before the water gets too warm for it to live.

The Bureau of Reclamation says it will release 5,000 acre-feet of water next week because temperatures are getting high early.

But the flow raises concerns with homeowners like Jack Cox.

“If we have a winter like this year, and we drain these lakes, what do we have for reserve for agriculture or for anything else?” he said.

The steelhead trout is in the river, but homeowners say the lake is home to bass, bald eagles, and grazing cattle. The water also attracts thousands of tourists every year.

The South San Joaquin Irrigation District says it doesn’t plan to release water from the lake, but if New Melones Lake goes dry this year or next year, they may have to lower Tulloch.

“If we can’t put our boats in this lake, that’s the way it’s going to be, but at least we want to have drinking water, enough water for the crops downstream, and not waste this water,” Cox said.

Homeowners are petitioning Gov. Jerry Brown to go to Washington and get an injunction to stop the water release. They say what happens in the foothills’ lakes could affect farms and homes in the valley later on.

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