THE NEED FOR AN AUBURN DAM
Mike Catino, Member
Auburn Dam Council
BUILD IT – DAM IT – THE AUBURN DAM
The above refrain has been the theme of the Auburn Dam Council since the mid 1980's when the Bureau of Reclamation aborted their 1965 federal authorization for completion of the Auburn-Folsom South unit of the Central Valley Project.
The theme of the Auburn Dam Council was supported by a two-thirds vote in the city and county of Sacramento in favor of Measure “T” in 1991.
The Bureau of Reclamation (the bureau) as well as any state agency has not shown any interest to date in rekindling the construction of an Auburn Dam and it’s facility. The current studies of both the federal and state under the title of “Cal-Fed” does not lists activity for fostering flood control protection for the city and county of Sacramento. Cal-Fed especially has no plans to protect the state capitol and it’s associated buildings, water and power supplies, recreation, enhancement of fish and wildlife and water quality.
With the total abandonment by the federal and state agencies of the Auburn Dam and facilities, the long existing Auburn Dam Council is preparing to act in the formation of an Auburn Dam Authority (the authority).
This proposed authority would encompass five benefiting counties; Placer, El Dorado, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Yolo. These counties would receive the primary and direct benefits of a full Auburn development. Each county will have membership and status in the authority by an appointment to the Board of Directors. The board will be entrusted to carry out the full program by providing for the designs and construction of a dam and facilities at the now existing bureau site on the American River.
The funding of the future construction will come from several sources. These sources include federal and state entities for an appreciation of the flood control allocation of costs, revenue bonds that will be secured for the sale of water, power and recreation allocations and local five county contributions to aid in the operation and completion of various project works.
Spearheading the formation of the authority is former State Assemblyman Anthony Pescetti. Assemblyman Pescetti has been extremely successful in gaining support for this non-governmental completion of the above facilities. However, he acknowledges that the five county support is essential, especially the elected officials of many city councils and County Boards of Supervisors.
What will an Auburn Dan accomplish when completed?
A 2.3 million acre feet Auburn Reservoir along with the existing one million acre feet Folsom Reservoir will guarantee 200 year protection to those areas in Sacramento and Yolo counties that are vulnerable to flooding.
The immediate Sacramento areas needing flood protection have an estimated property value of 40 billion dollars. This amount will increase with time.
In the event of an unfortunate levee break, miles of utility lines and roads and buildings would be inundated and water supplies would be contaminated. The evacuation of people from homes, businesses, schools, hospitals, office buildings, and, especially those in convention meetings and entertainment venues would be a logistical nightmare at best.
In the aftermath of a major flood, the clean up is a miserable work environment with businesses suffering, with people being the hardest hit. Their homes, places of employment, food and drinking water supplies, would be in disarray. A return to their normal living environment and life styles would be interrupted over an extended period of time.
While in the past, aid from federal and state entities have announced availability, in reality, their actual performance has been lacking in their protracted response time.
Due to the reasons cited above and in view of the Sacramento’s flood history, the authority will be seeking a substantial contribution from the federal and state entities for flood control benefits. One has only to consider the horrific consequences of past floods when Sacramento was one day (1964) and three hours (1986) from disaster. The federal contribution will take into consideration the expenditures to date of the bureau of approximately 250 million dollars which includes 30 million expended for geological studies and the Auburn Dam’s consulting boards.
It is estimated that an average annual yield of water supply of approximately 700,000 acre feet (an acre foot is equal to 326,000 gallons) can be developed for 80% of the time, with 300,00 acre feet being provided 100% of the time yearly. When the proposed storage capacity of 2.3 million acre feet is completed, the initial water services to originating Placer and El Dorado counties will be honored, in conformation with state and federal legislation.
Sacramento County has continued the development of new homes and commercial properties east and west of the Folsom South Canal, as well as areas along the Consumes River to the city of Elk Grove. These developments along with nearby wildlife habitat are potential users of pristine American River waters.
San Joaquin County is in need of a groundwater and surface water supply as contemplated under the federal authorization and this requirement will be honored.
Yolo County current and projected growth rate makes that county a candidate for additional water supplies over and above their contracted amounts that they currently receive from the Sacramento River.
In the bureaus authorization it was contemplated that a 300 to 400 megawatt power facility could be constructed. Additional studies will be required in view of today’s hydrologic conditions. It is potentially possible to increase the power capability to around 600 megawatts.
It is contemplated, with the growth in the Sacramento Valley and the statewide energy requirements, that “clean” hydroelectric power will be easily marketable with prices in line with other sources of power. Potential contractors for energy include Sacramento Municipal Utilities District, the City of Roseville, PG&E and the Western Area Administration. Interconnecting Auburn Power with existing facilities near Auburn and Folsom should not be a major concern.
The authority will administer recreation in and around the Auburn Reservoir. The plan for recreational development will appreciate the excellent designs and details prepared by the State Department of Parks and Recreation for the bureau.
It is contemplated that wilderness camping, rafting various water sports, fishing, boating, horse back riding and all other potential recreation activities will be fully explored and developed. The public will be invited to make an important contribution for the area’s development.
The bureau that a visitor facility, adjacent to the existing Dam Overlook parking lot, would be completed during the early days of construction. The authority will be requested to include this vital project addition in its overall program. The visitor facilities would include state of the art visual aids and class and lecture rooms. The theme of the facility will honor all water, power, and flood control and recreation developments in the state.
After the authority is formed, their main activity will be the formation of favorable legislation for the transfer of all held federal properties included in the bureau’s authorization as well as engineering and geological data.