SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – An executive order to help the state prepare for more water in the Tulare Lake Basin was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday.

The statement from the governor’s office warns that the significant flooding already present will worsen as the snowpack melts in the coming months.

“With historic rain and snowpack creating immense challenges for this region, our first priority is protecting lives and livelihoods impacted by this devastating flooding,” Newsom said. “State officials are on the ground to assist communities, support the local emergency response underway and prepare for the surge of snowmelt runoff in the months ahead.”

State officials say the executive order will streamline state preparation, response and recovery actions – and supports local flood response efforts.

Tulare Lake is starting to reappear after having previously dried up following the damning of the Kaweah, Kern, Kings and Tule Rivers in 1879. The footprint of the lake, when full, could reach 690 square miles, stretching from Kettleman City east to Corcoran and north to Lemoore. Waves of recent atmospheric rivers that have descended on the Central Valley are starting to bring the old lake back.

It was considered the largest body of fresh water west of the Mississippi.

State agencies including CAL FIRE, the California Department of Water Resources, and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, have already been helping manage the flood response efforts.

According to the governor’s office, the order will:

  • Streamlines regulations in order to expedite preparation and recovery efforts. The order suspends certain statutes and regulations to expedite emergency flood preparation and response activities such as floodwater diversion, debris removal and levee repairs in the Tulare Lake Basin.
  • Boosts staffing for emergency response efforts. To ensure adequate staffing for response efforts, the order waives work hour limitations for retired annuitants working with state agencies and departments on the emergency response.

You can view the full order by clicking here.