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All time low water levels at Lake Sonoma reveal a hidden past from below

Old ruined buildings found at Lake Sonoma (Photo courtesy of Jack Ginn)

By Zachary Lustberg, staff writer

Over the past two years, rainfall has severely decreased, and the dry winters have left Lake Sonoma lower than ever. The lake has been unable to reach its full capacity of 245,000 acre-feet, and each year the water level just continues to drop. The total water storage at Lake Sonoma is only at 113,564 acre-feet right now, which is 46.4% of the total capacity. In 2020, it was over 75%. On Wednesday, May 25, the State Water Resources Control Board determined that the Russian River would need a minimum instream flow of 25 cubic feet per second (cfs) in lower parts and 35 cfs in higher parts of the river to maintain the current water levels. It is key for the lake to maintain a constant instream flow so that the capacity of the lake does not drop any lower and it can work on actually regaining some level of water. 

Engraved date on old buildings (Photo courtesy of Jack Ginn)

With land that used to be hidden underwater being shown, a sunken history is beginning to reveal itself. During his trip to the lake, Jack Ginn, a junior at MCHS saw something unusual. When he got up close, it became obvious that there were, what looked like to him, hundred-year-old ruins buried in the lake’s ground. Ginn had been going to the lake for years and never reported seeing anything quite like this. “I had never seen the water so low, and I started to spot what looked like concrete. There were multiple concrete ruins, and it even looked like some stretched out into the parts of the lake that still had water. I have no idea what they could be from though,” said Ginn. 

No one else has reported anything about the findings yet, but as long as they keep remaining uncovered, they won’t stay undiscovered. While it didn’t take any “treasure hunting” to find the remains of the buildings, they weren’t exactly out in the open either. This is most likely why the ruins have remained in this way for so long. Everything is down to its foundations and only a fraction of what it used to be is there, which makes it difficult to tell exactly what the buildings are or where they came from. Before the dam that would form Lake Sonoma was built, Pomo Native Americans lived in the Coyote Valley, and had been there since the 1800’s. When the process to build the dam started, the Pomo families were kicked out due to the flooding that would occur. In 1957 the last families were removed, terminating the Coyote Valley band. Now there’s nothing that directly points towards the fact that the natives were the ones that built the buildings; however, at least the one concrete piece of evidence found tells us when these buildings are from. A stone with a date engraved on it, the date reads “Aug 14, 27.”  

Why the water level is low is not mysterious: The water is drying up and the lake is not getting enough rain or instream flow to maintain its storage. What is more puzzling is what is appearing as the water recedes and who left it there.

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