The San Clemente dam, which controls the Carmel River watershed, is coming down! The 90 year-old, 106 foot dam was deemed, “seismically unsafe”, in 1995. California American Water, who owns and operates the dam, is ready to resolve the safety issue and reinforce and upgrade the aging structure.
Natural resource agencies have stepped in, and along with Cal-Am, have devised a plan to remove the dam, instead of retrofitting it. The cost… A staggering $83 million dollars, compared to the $49 million it would take to retrofit the dam. Of course, much of the cost will shake down to the businesses, homes and families who purchase water from Cal-Am; $50 million of that cost, to be exact. This is part, of what makes dam removal so controversial.
To some, dam removal is an ecological responsibilty, to others a threat to agricultural security. Still, others consider dam removal to be nothing more than a grand experiment. What will the final cost be? Will agricultural business suffer even more? Will it be the catalyst for an explosion in water prices? Is the Carmel River really where we need to spend precious dollars, or are our efforts better spent protecting the Smith, the Chetco and other free flowing, intact river systems? No matter how you feel about it, we are at important turning point in history. What is the reel value of these watersheds. Are they worth saving? Personally, I believe they are of great value, but we have to choose our battles carefully.
Preliminary work on the dam removal will begin this summer. It will take three years to complete the deconstruction. When it is over, 928 acres of land will become public and rededicated to park land.
To read more about the project, go to www.sanclementedamremoval.org