A good year for fixing dams

Submitted: Jun 03, 2015
Badlands Journal editorial board

 While dams provide many benefits, they also pose a significant hazard.  Dam owners, individuals living and working downstream, first responders, local and state officials all are encouraged to know the risks and benefits of dams located in their respective communities. -- California Department of Water Resources, May 28,2015


Last week, we received  a press release from the state Department of Water Resources announcing National Dam Safety Awareness Day.

And so, for a day, amid the problems of drought, some tried to be aware. We were among that number and as we strained to be aware, we remembered a study of California dams done by the Gov. Gray Davis administration, back before the Age of the Hun, which reported that there were only two or three dams in the entire state that entirely passed their safety inspections.

Some of those dams, we know, have since been taken down, but the majority of them no doubt remain. There could be no better year than 2015 to inspect, maintain and repair every dam in the state because the reservoirs behind them are at historic lows, a condition which allows unprecedented access to the surfaces of the dams.

Perhaps the state Water Resources Control Board chair, Ms. Felicia Marcus, could consider not "educating" us about her cold showers (more than we need to know), and organize a campaign to inspect, maintain and repair the state's dams.We understand that people in charge are making themselves sick working so hard to predict the weather, manage public perception and conceal the veritable uphill flowing torrent of water to money.   

We suspect that those reservoirs will fill up again at least a time or two more before the coyotes and roadrunners take complete control for good. Nor do we seem to be alone in this wild surmise: we note that the agro-oligarchs and their government minions and enablers continue to push for more dams and reservoirs, and there seems to be quite a bit of unregulated private reservoir building cropping up here, there and everywhere in the San Joaquin Valley.

If the state is looking for something useful to do now, inspection, maintenance and repair of our dams fits the bill and might take the edge off Giant Water Project Compulsion, a mental disorder affecting politicians at all levels of California government from the Semi-Divine Sen. Di-Fi to the ridiculous One Voice Gaggle from Merced County. -- blj











May 28, 2015



Ed Wilson, Public Affairs Director

(916) 651-7512

Doug Carlson, Information Officer

(916) 653-5114 (mobile: 916-335-2299)


Dam Safety Awareness Day:

Promoting Dam Safety throughout California


SACRAMENTO – National Dam Safety Awareness Day occurs on May 31 each year to commemorate the 1889 failure of South Fork Dam in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  More than 2,200 people died in this dam failure.  No other dam failure in the United States has resulted in a greater loss of life.


The primary goal of National Dam Safety Awareness Day is to encourage and promote dam safety, which includes helping the public understand ongoing work to prevent catastrophic dam failures.


Since August 14, 1929, the State of California has supervised dams to prevent failure, safeguard lives and protect property.   The state took on this role after the March 1928 failure of St. Francis Dam in Los Angeles County.  This resulting flood killed more than 450 people and caused significant property damage. 


The California Division of Safety of Dams (DSOD) within the Department of Water Resources (DWR) is responsible for regulating approximately 1,250 dams in the state to ensure dam safety.  Through independent analyses and on-site inspections, DSOD engineers and geologists oversee dam design and construction, as well as operations and maintenance to protect people and property from dam failure. 


A prime example of DSOD’s dam safety role is the replacement of Calaveras Dam in Alameda County.  This 200-foot- high dam was found to be vulnerable to earthquake as part of a routine periodic review of high-hazard dams located near active faults.  To reduce risk until a replacement dam could be constructed, reservoir storage was significantly restricted to a level deemed safe for the interim.  With design and construction oversight by DSOD, the City and County of San Francisco is building New Calaveras Dam immediately downstream of the existing Calaveras Dam.  (See an article on the Calaveras Dam project in the Winter 2014/2015 edition of DWR News.)


While dams provide many benefits, they also pose a significant hazard.  Dam owners, individuals living and working downstream, first responders, local and state officials all are encouraged to know the risks and benefits of dams located in their respective communities.


Visit http://engineeringstrongersafer.net/ to find out how you can support National Dam Safety Awareness Day in your community.


Visit http://www.damsafety.org/ for the Association of State Dam Safety Officials website.


Visit http://www.water.ca.gov/damsafety/ for California Division of Safety of Dams website.


Visit www.fema.gov/protecting-our-communities/dam-safety for FEMA’s dam safety website.


To learn about the actions the state has taken to manage California’s water system and cope with the impacts of the four-year drought, visitDrought.CA.Gov.

Every Californian can take steps to conserve water. Find out how at 


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