Support Innovative Dam-Removal Project

Target: Robert MacLean, President of California American Water

Goal: Support one company’s decision to tear down an unsustainable dam

Recently, the state of California launched the biggest dam-removal project in its history. Located on the Carmel River, the San Clemente Dam was declared “seismically unsafe” by the state’s division on dam safety. California American Water, the public utility that owns the dam, made tearing it down a priority after evaluating costs, environmental benefits, and other factors. The removal of San Clemente Dam, a $83 million project, will allow the Carmel to flow more naturally for 70 percent of its length. Thus, aquatic life previously threatened by the dam will be able to return to critical habitats.

The 106-foot San Clemente Dam was built in 1921 in order to store drinking water for the growing population of Monterey County. Located 18.5 miles upstream from the Pacific Ocean, the dam’s reservoir lost 95 percent of its original water storage capacity due to the buildup of silt and sediment over time. This is a common problem with dams internationally. Currently, the Monterey Peninsula relies on groundwater as its primary source of drinking water.

The removal of the dam will afford 25 miles of restored habitat for the steelhead trout, which was declared a threatened species by federal officials in 1997. In addition, the project will restore the natural movement of sediment, replenish sand on Carmel Beach, and improve conditions for the California Red-Legged frog, the largest native frog in the western United States. The project also features some innovative engineering: the Carmel River will be re-routed into the San Clemente Creek so that the dam may be dismantled without destabilizing the sediment behind it.

California American Water will pay about 60 percent of the total cost, with various other organizations contributing funds to the project. In addition, the public utility is donating 928 acres of property around the dam to the federal Bureau of Land Management. By signing this petition, you are supporting this innovative dam-removal project. Hopefully, it may serve as a model for other river restoration efforts across the country.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. MacLean,

Your company recently became involved in the largest dam-removal project in the history of the state of California. Located on the Carmel River, the San Clemente Dam was declared “seismically unsafe” by the state’s division on dam safety. Fortunately, your company has made tearing it down a priority after evaluating costs, environmental benefits, and other factors. The removal of San Clemente Dam will allow the Carmel to flow more naturally for 70 percent of its length, allowing aquatic life once threatened by the dam to return to critical habitats.

The dam’s reservoir lost 95 percent of its original water storage capacity due to the buildup of silt and sediment over time. The removal of the dam will afford 25 miles of restored habitat for the steelhead trout, which was declared a threatened species by federal officials in 1997. In addition, it will restore the natural movement of sediment, replenish sand on Carmel Beach, and improve conditions for the California Red-Legged frog, the largest native frog in the western United States.

California American Water is exemplifying corporate social responsibility by paying about 60 percent of the total cost of the project. Furthermore, it is encouraging to see your company donate property around the dam to the Bureau of Land Management. I am applauding this innovative dam-removal project. Hopefully, it may serve as a model for other river restoration efforts across the country.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: portland general via Flickr

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