Fish, Frogs, and People to Benefit from Biggest Dam-Removal Project in California History

Photo retrieved from: www.nationalgeographic.com

“Over the next 28 months, the beautiful Carmel River will be set free to flow more naturally for 70 percent of its length as the 106-foot (32.3 meter) San Clemente Dam is dismantled.

Downstream of the dam, threatened fish and frogs will get a new lease on life as critical habitats open up. And some 1,500 households will enjoy greater safety as the dam’s risk of failure during a major earthquake or flood event disappears.

Built in 1921 to store drinking water for the burgeoning population of Monterey County, the San Clemente Dam is a concrete arch structure located 18.5 miles (29.8 kilometers) upstream from the Pacific Ocean.

While built for a good cause, the dam’s reservoir has lost 95 percent of its original water storage capacity due to the build-up of silt and sediment carried in by the Carmel River.  Historically, the river carried that sediment load downstream, keeping its channel functioning well and replenishing coastal beaches.  But the dam trapped the sediment in the reservoir, causing it to fill – a common problem with dams worldwide.

The Monterey Peninsula now relies primarily on groundwater for its drinking water supply.

Meanwhile, the dam became a safety hazard as its risk of failure increased.  After the state of California’s division on dam safety declared San Clemente “seismically unsafe,” California American Water, the public utility that owns the dam, assessed its options for reducing the dam’s threats.  Taking into account cost, environmental benefits and other factors, the idea of tearing the dam down rose to the top of the list.”

Read more: National Geographic

 

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