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California lake will close because of drought

In a blow to boaters that underscores the growing extent of California’s water squeeze, the level of Diamond Valley Lake is falling so low that it will have to be closed to recreational users on April 15, the Metropolitan Water District announced Tuesday.

Water is receding so far that ramps at Diamond Valley Marina are being left high and dry, water district spokesman Bob Muir said.

It would be the first recreational closing forced by low water since the 2009 drought, but the second time for the reservoir since it opened to the public in 2003. The lake’s ramp was shuttered from October 2008 to December 2009 because of low lake levels.

“This action speaks volumes about the seriousness of the water-supply situation Southern California faces now and next year. That’s why continued conservation is essential,” water district general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger told NBC Los Angeles.

The largest reservoir in Southern California, Diamond Valley was built a generation ago to provide a buffer against drought.

During the suspension, the lake will remain open to the public with three miles of shoreline for public fishing. Kayaks and canoes “that meet guidelines” will be allowed as long as the boarding docks are serviceable.

Diamond Valley is now down to 48 percent of capacity, Muir said, which is especially significant because this is the end of the winter season, when California banks water reserves for the hot, dry season. Barring a miraculous series of storms, by the fall it is expected that Diamond Valley could be drawn down to only a quarter of capacity, the lowest it has been since it was first filled in 2002.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday announced unprecedented mandatory statewide water restrictions after surveyors found the lowest amount of Sierra Nevada snowpack since record-keeping started in 1950, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Sierra snowpack is at 5 percent of its historical average, far below last year’s previous record low of 25 percent.

Despite the new prohibition, the public will be able to continue to rent authorized outboards, kayaks and canoes for recreational use as long as boarding docks remain serviceable. Water district officials also said fishing will remain permissible on three miles of shoreline, and the lake’s View Trail will remain open for hiking, biking and horseback riding, according to the Murrieta Patch.