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Kings River: Closures

Increasing water flows in the Kings River are causing riverbanks to erode and trees to fall into the river which creates strainers of turbulent water flows through the tree. A person caught in a strainer can quickly find themselves pinned against the tree or even swept underneath it, sheriff’s officials warn. It is extremely difficult to rescue yourself from a strainer and typically requires emergency help from trained rescue personnel.

FRESNO – Fresno and Tulare County Sheriffs are either closing the Kings River or monitoring the rising water levels in advance of making a river closure announcement.

Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux announced May 30 that the Kings River was closed to all recreational use because of potentially dangerous conditions. Recreational use includes swimming and boating.

The Army Corps of Engineers is releasing water from Pine Flat Dam, which flows into the Kings River and travels through Fresno and Tulare counties. At that time, the flow at the Kings River was 5,200 cubic feet per second.

“I am very concerned about the safety of the people of this county,” Sheriff Boudreaux said. “The water conditions are unsafe and unpredictable and simply not suitable for recreation right now. If shutting down access to a public waterway saves just one life, it is worth any slight inconvenience that it might cause.”

Boudreaux reminds residents to be extremely careful in all local waterways as the water may look calm, but is not and a situation can turn dangerous in an instant.

The Kings River closure signs are being posted and the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office will provide enforcement.

Meanwhile, Fresno County Sheriff’s Office was actively monitoring the rising water levels on the Kings River from Pine Flat Dam to the Tulare and Kings County lines. 

Sheriff Margaret Mims anticipates a closure this week to this portion of the Kings River because of the rapidly rising water levels. The closure would apply to all recreational users, such as boaters, kayakers, tubers and swimmers. 

Enacting a closure would be a difficult decision, but one that must be made in the best interest of public safety, the department said. This closure would be permitted under the authority of Penal Code 409.5(a) and Fresno County Ordinance 13.32.080. 

Sheriff Mims previously exercised this ordinance in 2017, closing the Kings River from May 24 to July 17.

Rising temperatures are melting large amounts of snow in the Sierra. This will cause an increase of water into Pine Flat Lake, therefore resulting in a higher release of water into the Kings River. Currently, Pine Flat Lake is taking in water at a rate of just under 7,500 cubic feet per second. The dam is pushing out nearly 9,300 cfs into the Kings River, as of May 31. This amounts to 449 gallons per minute and 646,272 gallons per day.

Readers may check the hourly flows from Pine Flat Dam by visiting http://www.spk-wc.usace.army.mil/fcgi-bin/hourly.py?report=pnf.

The Kings River water temperature is registering 52 degrees. Exposure to the cold water can cause hypothermia, which can quickly lead to exhaustion or unconsciousness. Increased water releases can result in numerous public safety hazards and areas of serious concern for floaters and swimmers. 

Riverbanks can erode and lead to many trees falling into the river. Downed trees create strainers where turbulent water flows through the tree. A person caught in a strainer can quickly find themselves pinned against the tree or even swept underneath it. It is extremely difficult to rescue yourself from a strainer and typically requires emergency help from trained rescue personnel.

As you recreate in all natural waterways this summer, the Sheriff’s Office reminds you to be safe while doing so.

Take simple precautions such as:

  • Wear a life jacket.
  • Stay out of the water if you’re not an experienced swimmer.
  • Do not mix alcohol and swimming. Alcohol causes swimmers to fatigue faster than normal and can create dangerous situations.
  • Please keep an eye on your children at all times. In less than a minute they can slip into the water and be put at risk of injury or death.

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