Construction is under way for the San Vicente Dam Raise project – the tallest dam raise ever in the United States and a vital component of the San Diego County Water Authority’s long-term plan to improve regional water reliability.
More than 150 local water and business leaders, along with California Secretary for Natural Resources Mike Chrisman, gathered today near the dam site in Lakeside to commemorate the start of construction of the $568 million project.
“Raising San Vicente Dam will provide the biggest increase in regional water storage in San Diego County history,” said Claude “Bud” Lewis, Water Authority Board Chair. “When complete, it will greatly expand our capacity for holding emergency water supplies, as well as water storage for use during times of limited supply like we are experiencing now.”
The project, which will also be the tallest dam raise in the world using roller-compacted concrete, will take more than three years to complete. It will raise the height of the city of San Diego’s 220-foot-tall dam by 117 feet and provide an additional 152,000 acre-feet of storage, more than doubling the reservoir’s current capacity. (An acre-foot is 325,900 gallons, enough to meet the needs of two single-family homes of four people for a year.)
“By working closely with the Water Authority we’ll be able to continue using San Vicente to serve our customers’ day-to-day water needs even while building a taller dam to meet our region’s long-range water reliability needs,” said San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders. “The Water Authority and its member water agencies have developed a plan to maximize water storage at other reservoirs to make up for San Vicente’s lower water level during construction. This is the kind of mutual aid and cooperation that supports a safe and reliable water supply for San Diego.”
The San Vicente Dam Raise will provide 100,000 acre-feet of carryover water storage for use during dry seasons or other times of limited supply. The project is also the final component of the Water Authority’s $1.5 billion Emergency Storage Project, which has been under way for more than a decade. The Emergency Storage Project is a system of reservoirs, pipelines, and other facilities that work together to store and move water around the county in the event of a disaster. When complete, the system will provide 90,100 acre-feet of water stored locally for emergency use.
“ Our current drought, regulatory restrictions on pumping water from Northern California, and likely changes in precipitation prompted by climate change give stark evidence why San Diego County needs additional storage capacity,” said Water Authority General Manager Maureen Stapleton. “Storage isn’t a silver bullet for our region’s water reliability, but had this additional storage been available today, it could have significantly reduced the need to cut back water deliveries to our member agencies this year.”
California Secretary for Natural Resources Mike Chrisman praised the Water Authority for investing in infrastructure projects that not only protect the region’s water reliability, but also ease demand on other parts of the state’s water system.
“This project is an excellent example of the kind of new infrastructure California needs to respond to our water supply challenges,” he said.