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Reclamation, DWR move forward with seismic upgrades at B.F. Sisk Dam

The U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources are moving forward on an estimated billion-dollar seismic upgrade project at B.F. Sisk Dam and San Luis Reservoir.

Based on updated analysis of the risk and potential consequences of a large earthquake in this area, Reclamation and the state of California are undertaking a dam safety project that will add stability berms and other physical features to the 3.5-mile-long earthen embankment. This will reduce the risks associated with a large seismic event.

“This seismic upgrade project is part of our commitment to reduce the risk to downstream communities while protecting our valuable water supply,” said Ernest Conant, regional director for Reclamation’s California-Great Basin. “The strong partnership we share with the state allows us to leverage the expertise, resources and funding to ensure a safe and successful project.”

DWR operates the Reclamation-owned B.F. Sisk Dam (also known as San Luis Dam) and San Luis Reservoir and is the cost-share partner.

“We will continue to move forward with the important work to modernize infrastructure to protect California’s water supply and enhance public safety,” said acting State Water Project Deputy Director Ted Craddock. “This project represents a significant investment to address seismic risk to our water infrastructure.”

Reclamation has implemented additional risk-reduction measures as it works to put a more permanent dam safety project in place. These measures include heightened earthquake monitoring, real-time seismic monitoring, dam safety tabletop exercises with local responders, increased seismic inspection criteria and an updated dam emergency management plan.

Exploratory blasting to identify suitable material for construction of stability berms and other dam safety features will occur in the next few months.

Located in Merced County, the off-stream San Luis Reservoir provides more than 2 million acre-feet of combined supplemental storage capacity for the Central Valley Project and State Water Project. The reservoir provides many benefits, including water for irrigation, municipal and industrial use, recreation and hydroelectric power.

Construction on the multi-year project is slated to begin in summer of 2021.