Water flowing from Isabella Lake serves as a refreshing reminder that the Kern River does run through Bakersfield — sometimes, anyway, and not always because there's been a recent abundance of rain or snowfall.
The flow visible this week from Golden State Avenue to about Coffee Road has been attracting residents anxious for a respite from the recent heat. They're making good use of what has become a relatively rare sighting in the city: a Bakersfield riverbed with water in it.
It may be worth noting that the Kern is running not because this has been a particularly wet year (it hasn't been), but because of work the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is doing to shore up a dam upstream.
Repairs the corps has planned for the river's auxiliary dam require that there not be too much water in the lake. At the moment, the water level is considered excessive, said Kern River Watermaster Dana Munn.
Lately, he said, Isabella Lake contains about 250,000 acre-feet of water (1 acre-foot is enough to cover an acre of land 12 inches deep). By Oct. 1, the lake needs to come down to about 70,000 acre-feet.
Might as well enjoy the water now: Once the dam repairs are done, don't expect another flow visible through Bakersfield next year, even if it's a wet year.
Munn said the lake will probably be dammed up next year to save up for future water deliveries to farmers in western Kern, the City of Bakersfield and others with rights to the water. That means water will flow down the river, but not enough to make it through Bakersfield.