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Monday, May 4

California dam built on earthquake fault (eye roll) is being taken down

Well it was built in 1921; what did they know back then about quake faults?  Another reason for removing the dam is that the reservoir behind it is 95 percent packed with mud.  As to how many other reservoirs for old U.S. dams and ones around the world have the same problem -- [Gallic shrug]

To dam or not to dam?  That is the question.  I've stayed away from trying to learn the answer because it would be about six months out of my life before I could even begin to think in informed fashion on the question. 

As for taking the case-by-case approach to the question:  this means dealing with statistics on the particular dam -- there being statistics, damn statistics, and dam statistics. So much money is involved in dam projects, and so many people  affected, those on either side of the debate can marshal cadres of engineers who will swear on a stack of data that the dam is critically needed or the dam is going to doom the region.  

It's like watching a tennis match.  

This said, from what I have picked up over the decades about various dam projects, it seems this is a last resort that became a huge fad starting in the post-World War Two Development Era.  They went so dam happy since then, now in many parts of the world including California they're running out of sites for dams!

It was as if the amazing technologies connected with dams became their own rationale for dam building, one that took precedence over very complex water storage issues that only in this era of satellite-driven data collection are becoming more clearly understood.  It's getting to the point where the known unknowns, as Rumsfeld termed it, are clearer.    

In short, questions about the impact of dam building on regional water security seem to be shifting from engineering to scientific disciplines that didn't exist even a quarter century ago.

All that is introduction to a report from a San Diego daily newspaper on the battlespace being staked out on whether California needs more reservoirs and dams.  Note it's a three-page report.  

Caveat:  political templates aren't helpful in a drought of such magnitude.  I kept that in mind when reading the report.

File - In this June 1, 2006 file photo is the San Clemente Dam on the Carmel River in Carmel Valley, Calif. The largest dam removal project in California history has hit an important milestone with the diversion of a half-mile section of the Carmel River into a man-man river bed. San Clemente Dam has to come down because it was built in 1921 on an earthquake fault and because the reservoir behind it is 95 percent packed with mud. State regulators are worried that if the privately owned dam collapsed homes and businesses downstream would be flooded by muck. (AP Photo/Monterey County Herald, Vern Fisher) The Associated Press [via U-T0

Dams, reservoirs may not be best answer
Critics say projects are costly, offer limited supply for cities, farms
By Chris Nichols
3 P.M.MAY 3, 2015Updated 9:57 A.M.MAY 4, 2015U-T San Diego

SACRAMENTO — With dead almond trees propped on the Capitol steps and school children clutching signs that read “We need water. Build storage now!”, advocates for new dams and reservoirs in California offered a striking set of visuals in Sacramento last week.

Legislation to advance those traditional GOP arguments, however, faded away faster than this year’s Sierra Nevada snowpack, rejected later in the day by Democrats who tightly control decisions under the Capitol dome.

“I think (surface storage) is a dinosaur. The fact is it’s an inferior way to store water,” said Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, who chaired a panel that rejected a Republican bill to speed up dam and reservoir construction last week. “It will be a piece of the future, but a very small piece.”

The construction of dams and reservoirs has slowed dramatically in California over the past 40 years due to stronger environmental regulations, the lack of remaining suitable sites and growing momentum for more cost-effective methods of storing water.

But faced with a fourth straight year of drought and growing water shortages for agriculture, Republican lawmakers and Central Valley farmers say there’s no better time than now to build additional above ground storage, to ensure future drought’s aren’t so brutal.

“(The drought) started in agriculture, but now it’s touched all parts of the state — we know the solution is water storage,” Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Nicolaus, told the farmers, lawmakers and children at last week’s Capitol steps rally.

Gallagher authored the bill, AB 311, to expedite reservoir construction. Like the almond trees on the steps, his legislation was dead just hours after the rally, defeated by a 6-3 party line vote in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, with all Democrats opposed

Lacking in detail, and pursuing a solution Democrats simply don’t agree with, the legislation was flawed from the start, said William, the committee chair.

“It was a political stunt,” Williams added of the rally.

History and high cost

California is home to more than 1,400 regulated reservoirs, the largest of which were built in Northern California by the state and federal governments from the 1950s through the 1970s. Since the completion of New Melones Dam in the Sierra foothills in 1979, however, only regional water authorities have invested in large-scale dams and reservoirs.


All right; that's not even the entire first page of the report.


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