State says California’s Sweetwater Dam needs safety improvements

Officials from California’s Division of Safety of Dams are concerned by the reluctance of the Sweewater Authority Board to perform dam safety repairs to the Sweetwater Dam.

The dam, located 12 miles east of San Diego, is a 180-foot-high, 700-feet long masonry arch dam that was completed in 1888 as part of San Diego County’s irrigation system. The dam now impounds the 960-acre Sweetwater Reservoir and operates in conjunction with the upstream Loveland Dam for flood control and water supply.

While the dam was already expanded to its current size after overtopping killed eight people in a flood in 1916, the state said its spillway is still susceptible to causing danger to those living downstream of the structure.

According to the Division of Safety of Dams, the design of Sweetwater’s spillway is flawed with the discharge needing to be focused more toward the structure’s center. While the dam itself is still sound, the fear is that flooding could cause parts to erode should corrections not be made.

The Sweetwater Authority previously voted not to perform what is projected to total about $7 million in repair work, though area sources have since reported the board will finance the project following a visit from the state.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for HydroWorld.com.

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