The project includes improvements to Folsom Dam, located on the American River about 23 miles northeast of Sacramento.
The $1.3 billion project will shore up dikes and build a new spillway to drain off the huge influx of water from heavy storms that otherwise might threaten the residents of Sacramento.
The project will be paid for with a combination of federal, state and local funding. It will support more than 2,200 new jobs in California's Central Valley.
Folsom Dam on the American River (Photo courtesy California State Parks)
The groundbreaking ceremony was held at the Folsom Dam Overlook, where the secretary and governor were joined by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Brigadier General John McMahon; U.S. Representatives Doris Matsui, Dan Lungren, and John Doolittle; California State Senators Darrell Steinberg and Dave Cox; and Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo, who represented the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency.
When completed in 2015, the upgrades will help increase the flood protection from 100 years to 200 years in most areas of the Sacramento region.
“We are protecting the one million Americans who live in the Sacramento area from the threat of a devastating flood,” Secretary Kempthorne said. “We are protecting the capital of the state of California and its economy - by itself the world’s eighth largest economy. We are doing this at a savings of nearly $1 billion below the original estimated cost. We are doing it seven years faster than originally estimated.”
"This project is a fantastic example of federal, state and local officials working together to protect people. It will allow us to react more quickly to heavy river flows and withstand bigger storms," said the governor. "And families will sleep more soundly beneath the added security Folsom Dam provides. This is a tremendous victory for the entire region and for the safety of Californians.
"We must push forward to increase flood protections and modernize our water infrastructure throughout the state," said Schwarzenegger. "With court-ordered reductions in water deliveries to 25 million Californians and hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland, our state is facing severe water shortages, and yet, so much of our excess runoff is wasted into the sea every year because it can't be captured."
A federal judge last year ordered that more water be retained in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to keep an endangered species of small fish, the Delta smelt, from extinction.
A coalition of conservation groups who brought the lawsuit to benefit the smelt points out that "more than 80 percent of California's surface water withdrawals are used for irrigation. About 15 percent is used for public, municipal supply."
During a 24 hour period, the releases of water from Folsom Dam can vary widely to meet changing demands for water and power. Nimbus Dam, seven miles down stream from Folsom Dam, stores these releases and re-regulates them to a steady flow downstream in the American River.
Although its primary function is flood control, the Folsom Dam stores water for irrigation and domestic use and for electrical power generation. The dam also provides for preservation of the American river fishery, and downstream control of salt water intrusion in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
The main section of the Folsom dam consists of a 340 foot high concrete structure flanked by long earthen wing dams extending to high ground at either end. This, along with other project features, holds over a million acre-feet of water in Folsom Lake.
Each year Folsom Dam prevents potential flooding downstream from winter storms and spring snow runoff.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.