San Clemente Dam to be Torn Down After All?

The silted-up, unsafe, San Clemente Dam

With its reservoir filled in, the San Clemente Dam is useless for water storage. It prevents steelhead from reaching their spawning grounds and, as the nearly 90 year old structure is fragile enough to fail in even a moderate earthquake, it poses a serious threat to downstream communities.

We wrote earlier this year about dam-owner, Cal-Am’s announcement that they were rejecting the nearly completed (and nearly fully funded) plan to remove the dam and moving forward with an alternate plan to inter it in concrete where it stands. We doubted the permitting agencies would allow Cal-Am to do this since, while buttressing the dam in place might make it safe for downstream residents, it could easily make a real recovery for the Carmel River steelhead impossible.

And, sure enough, Cal-Am is already abandoning the buttressing plan.

This bit of theater on Cal-Am’s part was apparently an attempt to pressure someone else (the government or the foundations providing dam removal funding) into accepting liability for the removal project. Although Cal-Am does not appear to have succeeded in shifting the liability, they have now announced that they are back on board with the removal project. Hopefully, this badly needed project can get rolling now without any further shenanigans.

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