Report: Most of San Diego’s 54 Dams In Good Shape, But 9 Only ‘Fair’

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The Olivenhain Dam (left) and Lake Hodges in North San Diego County. Courtesy San Diego County Waster Authority

The 54 dams in San Diego County are in pretty good shape, though some could present dangers in extreme circumstances, the state Department of Water Resources announced Friday.

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The agency’s Division of Safety of Dams released assessment data on 1,249 dams under its jurisdiction that included downstream hazard classification and any reservoir restrictions.

The information reflected the most recent physical inspections and “comprehensive re-evaluations” by DSOD engineers and engineering geologists, as well as technical analyses performed by dam owners, according to the agency.

“In light of lessons learned from the Lake Oroville spillways incident, we know there is work to do to expand and strengthen our dam safety program,” DSOD Chief Sharon Tapia said.

“Aging infrastructure is a serious concern, with half the dams in our jurisdiction at least 50 years old,” Tapia said. “This information will help prioritize where investments in dam safety need to be made.”

The physical conditions of the dams were classified as satisfactory, meaning no existing or potential safety deficiencies under all conditions; fair, for no existing deficiencies under normal conditions but some risk in case of extreme hydrologic and/or seismic events; poor, where a safety deficiency has been discovered and remedial action is necessary; and unsatisfactory, in which immediate remedial action is necessary.

In San Diego County, no dams were rated poor or unsatisfactory.

However, nine were rated as being in fair condition, including Barrett Lake, El Capitan Reservoir, Lake Hodges, Lake Morena, Lake Murray and Savage Dam at Lower Otay Lake — all owned by the city of San Diego.

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Other local dams rated fair were Mount Woodson, owned by the Ramona Municipal Water District; Sweetwater Reservoir, owned by the Sweetwater Authority; and Lake Wohlford, owned by the city of Escondido.

While extreme situations would be needed for the nine dams to pose a risk, the assessments pointed out that the downstream hazards to life and property were high or extremely high at each.

More than half the dams in the state have a high or extremely high downstream hazard rating.

Dam safety in the state was highlighted in February when the spillways at Lake Oroville were damaged during heavy winter rains. Authorities evacuated nearly 190,000 people because of the resulting danger, but the dam held and water eventually receded.

—City News Service

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