California American Water, partners renew effort to remove San Clemente Dam
PACIFIC GROVE, CA, Nov. 13, 2009 -- California American Water, with help from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the California State Coastal Conservancy, will resume engineering and planning work on a dam removal project halted earlier this year...
PACIFIC GROVE, CA, Nov. 13, 2009 -- California American Water announced today that with help from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the California State Coastal Conservancy, it will resume engineering and planning work on a dam removal project halted earlier this year. The dam removal project involves rerouting the Carmel River to bypass silt accumulated behind the dam and would be the first of its kind in the state of California.
"We're pleased to announce that we have renewed efforts to remove San Clemente Dam and the barrier it presents to threatened steelhead trout that traverse the Carmel River throughout their lifecycle," said California American Water president, Robert MacLean. "The project will resolve earthquake and flood safety issues associated with the dam while benefiting the wildlife that depend on the river."
In 1991, the California Department of Water Resources, Division of Safety of Dams agreed with a California American Water consultant's assertion that San Clemente Dam in Monterey County was inadequate for seismic stability and flood safety. The dam, located on the Carmel River, eighteen miles upstream from the Pacific Ocean, was built in 1921.
After years of study, the Department of Water Resources and Army Corps of Engineers issued an Environmental Impact Report in December 2007, which evaluated five options to bring the dam to current standards. One option involved strengthening the dam by adding a concrete buttress. Another option was removal of the dam, with a plan to reroute the river around the silt that had accumulated behind it.
The removal project, while more expensive, was favored by environmental groups and public agencies concerned with protection and enhancement of the Carmel River ecosystem.
For several years, California American Water worked with NOAA Fisheries and the California State Coastal Conservancy to develop strategies to implement the dam removal project while minimizing cost and risk to its ratepayers. California American Water committed $50 million - the cost of the strengthening project - and the dedication of 928 acres where the dam is located as parkland. The Coastal Conservancy and NOAA committed to raise the additional $35 million needed for the removal project through a combination of public funding and private donations. The effort fell apart in February 2009, when the company announced it had been unable to identify an entity willing to accept future ownership of the dam site and liability for the removal project.
"Liability remains an important issue for our company and our customers," said MacLean, who assumed the leadership of California American Water in April. "But with the help of environmental groups and elected representatives on the local, state and national level, whose support for the removal project is nearly unanimous, we are hopeful the liability issues can be resolved."
Interim risk reduction measures have been implemented while the company, NOAA and the State Coastal Conservancy line up the needed funding and forge an agreement with public agencies to acquire and manage the land surrounding the dam once the project is complete. The California Public Utilities Commission, as California American Water's primary regulator, will need to approve the project before it proceeds.
California American Water, a wholly owned subsidiary of American Water, provides high-quality and reliable water and/or wastewater services to more than 600,000 people.
Founded in 1886, American Water is the largest investor-owned U.S. water and wastewater utility company. With headquarters in Voorhees, N.J., the company employs more than 7,000 dedicated professionals who provide drinking water, wastewater and other related services to approximately 15 million people in 32 states and Ontario, Canada. More information can be found by visiting www.amwater.com.