Elected officials, conservation groups and community leaders from across the state gathered in Carmel Valley on June 6 to celebrate the completion of the San Clemente Dam and Carmel River Reroute Project.
The event, hosted by California American Water, in partnership with the California State Coastal Conservancy and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, included state and federal representatives as well as leadership from various nonprofit organizations that contributed to the dam removal effort.
The 106-foot San Clemente Dam, built in 1921 and removed in the summer of 2015, impacted threatened habitat within the Carmel River, which was declared one of America’s 10 most endangered rivers in 1999.
Once vibrant steelhead runs dramatically decreased over time, while lives and property below the dam were threatened by the possible collapse of the seismically unsafe structure.
Before its removal, the reservoir no longer provided significant water storage for the community, having filled more than 95% with 2.5 million cubic yards of sediment and with a remaining water storage capacity of only about 70 acre-feet.
The removal project included an innovative engineering approach of rerouting the river around accumulated sediment.
“Our approach avoided the environmental impact of releasing or transporting sediment,” said California American Water President Rob MacLean.
“The river reroute makes this dam removal unique from a technical and engineering point of view. I’m tremendously proud of the more than 300 people who worked to construct this project and performed the job safely and on time.”
Bringing the dam removal project to fruition was made possible by a strong partnership between California American Water, the owners and operators of the dam, and the California State Coastal Conservancy and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service.