Deal signed to proceed with California’s largest dam removal

Government Officials, as well as representatives from a Monterey water purveyor signed documents to proceed with the removal of the San Clemente Dam. This project, if carried out, would be the largest dam removal in the state of California. This decision is a monumental step towards the survival of the steelhead trout. Constructed in 1921, the San Clemente Dam provided storage for water used to irrigate fields as well as drinking water.
In 1991, it was declared to be structurally unsafe by State dam inspectors. The dam was said to be at risk of collapsing in the event of a powerful earthquake. The cost to renovate the dam would be approximately $50 million, whereas the cost to remove the dam would come to about $84 million. Also, the dam is filled with about 90% silt, rendering it nearly useless.
Dam owners eventually decided to remove the dam. In order to prevent the silt from flowing downstream and causing more environmental damage, scientists and engineers decided to re-route the river around the dam. The silt will then be held in place by large boulders. This project, when completed, should provide the endangered steelhead trout with a route to swim upstream and breed. The involved scientists hope that within a few years of completion in 2013, the steelhead trout populations will bounce back up to healthy levels.
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Brian O’Neill


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