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Officials Continue Eyeing Potential Algal Activity At New Melones

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Sonora, CA – Environmental health officials are assessing the distinctly green waters at New Melones, anticipating testing within the next few weeks.

As we reported here on Monday here, recent observation of a satellite tool that provides images of potential algal presence indicated a few pixels in the Stanislaus River above New Melones and a single-pixel at Lake Camanche. On Friday, the satellite imagery shows a slight, one-pixel increase at Melones and no change at Camanche. View satellite screen capture shots in by clicking the image box.

Tuolumne County Environmental Health Director Rob Kostlivy shares his office is still contacting all of the involved entities such as the Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife, Calaveras Environmental Health, and the boards of Supervisors for both counties to discuss a collaborative plan for the waterway. In the meantime, Environmental Health will be shortly conducting testing.

“Once we test and results are in, we will let the public know of our findings,” Kostlivy shares. “Due to the proximity to Calaveras, it is imperative that we work collaboratively with them so that our message is the same. We are anticipating conducting testing sometime in the next three weeks.” He adds it depends on changes picked up by the satellite that monitors the algal growth and that there needs to be sufficient marking data aligned identifying sufficient cause ahead of assigning large amounts of resources to a monitoring project.

Similar Scenario To Last Summer

Keith Bouma-Gregson, the Water Board lead for freshwater harmful algal blooms (HABs), states, “I have been paying attention to the satellite tool, and it looks as though the conditions may be similar to last summer, with a bloom developing in the Stanislaus River arm of New Melones.” He continues, “However, the satellite flew over yesterday, and only one pixel was over the detection limit, so it seems as though the bloom is not expanding right now.”

Melones, currently at 71 percent of its total storage is at 112 percent of its historic capacity for this time of year. This time over the past couple of years, due to larger than normal snowpack, it was a good deal fuller.

Bouma-Gregson notes, “Warm temperatures can increase HABs. We don’t know for sure what is driving growth in New Melones, though.” He adds, “Last year, the water was very warm at New Melones, so it may have already passed any thresholds and a few extra degrees of extra warmth may not make too much difference. This is all speculative and conceptual, though, without any data.”

As reported here, last July, sampling turned up evidence of potentially harmful cyanobacterial algae in the river waters above Melones that required the posting of advisory caution signs and triggered a series of water samplings.

BOR Region 10 officials indicated staff will be putting up educational signs for visitors to keep an eye out if they do spot anything.