Residents say people were fishing in the reservoir, also known as Walker Lake, just this past weekend. Then the entire lake drained, as if someone had unplugged a bathtub, in one night.
California is stuck in a drought of epic proportions, further compounded by years of sparse snowfall in the Sierra Nevadas that have left reservoirs across the state at record lows.
For resident Eddie Bauer, who has lived next to Walker Lake his whole life, the drained reservoir was a sight he had never seen before, the local CBS station reported.
Bauer was shocked because he, along with regional officials, thought the reservoir had had two weeks worth of water left. This would have given time for the Pacific Gas & Electric Company, who owns the rights to the water for a hydroelectric dam run on the reservoir, enough time to relocate the fish.
Instead, Bauer and other residents now see thousands of rotting dead fish baking in the sun where the reservoir used to be.
“This makes me feel like they didn’t want to do a fish rescue and that it was easier to open that sucker up Saturday Night,” Bauer said.
PG&E official Paul Moreno said that the water was not intentionally drained. He told CBS that in March, PG&E realized there would not be enough water to sustain the lake for the whole year, so they stopped using the water to generate power. Outflows from the lake were cut, but not shut off completely due to concern for fish further downstream.
“The reservoirs are all continuing to be far below normal,” said Doug Carlson with the California Department of Water Resources. “We are reliant upon rainfall to fill those lakes of course and until we get more rain we’re not likely to see any appreciable increase in the reservoir levels.”