Flood Control

Three Pictures that include the Kings River, Pine Flat Dam, and construction machinery on the levee

During the 2022/2023 Water Year, the Kings River experienced the most snowmelt runoff ever recorded: over 4,500,000 acre-feet. About 80 percent of the Kings River’s runoff occurs in April, May, June, and July. Before Pine Flat Dam became a reality, flooding was frequent enough to be considered a severe and continuous problem along the Kings River. The federal Flood Control Act of 1944, which authorized Pine Flat Dam’s construction, also provided for downstream channel improvements. Those projects included enlargement and renovation of levees and channels so Pine Flat flood releases and uncontrolled stream flows from Mill and Hughes creeks could safely pass to the San Joaquin River or, in extreme cases, to the Tulare Lake Basin. Over the years, these projects and other activities have helped improve KRCD’s flood control efforts.

In recent years, KRCD has secured millions in grant funding from the state. That funding included Prop 68’s Riparian Restoration Grant to remove invasive species, trash, and sediment improving the health of the river and help the Kings River’s channels and levees prepare for future flood seasons.

Flooding of the Kings River has always been a significant threat. The Kings River is prone to two types of flooding:

  • Dramatic and devastating winter overflows caused by heavy rains to high elevations
  • Spring and summer runoff from melting snow

McMullin On-Farm Flood Capture and Recharge Project

photo of concrete turnout structure, water, rock-lined channel, and farmland in the background.

500 CFS Turnout Structure

The McMullin On-Farm Flood Capture and Recharge Project, conceived in 2012 with the aid of a $5 million Proposition 1E Flood Corridor grant from the California Department of Water Resources (CDWR), materialized as a collaboration between the Kings River Conservation District (KRCD) and Terranova Ranch, Inc. This joint effort, driven by the mission to “Capture Available Flood Flows onto Farm Lands to Mitigate Downstream Flood Risks and provide for Ground Water Recharge,” aimed to elevate an existing ranch project from 25CFS to 600CFS.

With foresight, the initial phase installed a pumping capacity of 150CFS, designed to accommodate future conveyance needs. The project’s primary objective was to divert flood flows from the Kings River, safeguarding downstream communities like Firebaugh and Mendota. Simultaneously, it sought to replenish the groundwater aquifer through on-farm recharge, offering an alternative to pumping for irrigation needs (Flood-MAR).

The KRCD collaborated with private entities, including Terranova Ranch, Inc., and local public agencies such as James Irrigation District and Reclamation District 1606. Partnerships were also forged with the Kings River Water Association, Sustainable Conservation, Bachand & Associates, Floyd Johnston Construction, and the engineer of record, Provost & Pritchard. Construction, initiated in 2018 and completed in 2020 after addressing contractual, regulatory, and environmental requirements, marked a significant milestone.

The project’s effectiveness was demonstrated during the unprecedented Kings River runoff in early 2023. Approximately 16,569 acre-feet of floodwater were redirected from the Kings River to irrigate and recharge 2,374 acres between March and July. The McMullin Project not only enhanced flood control for the Kings River but also facilitated substantial groundwater recharge that would otherwise have been unattainable. The capture, retention, and reuse of water resources for public benefit realized in this inaugural implementation underscore the project’s enduring significance for decades to come.