42 California Dams Need Repairs. But Newsom, Legislators Battle Over Funding

"Aiming to store more water and protect the public, legislators are negotiating with the governor to restore $50 million to help repair 42 aging dams throughout the state."

"Several dozen dams throughout California could store up to 107 billion more gallons of water if they underwent repairs to fix safety problems. But facing a staggering state deficit, Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed cutting funding for a dam repair grant program in half this year, while state legislators want the $50 million restored.  

California has an aging network of nearly 1,540 dams — large and small, earthen and concrete — that help store vital water supplies. For 42 of these dams, state officials have restricted the amount of water that can be stored behind them because safety deficiencies would raise the risk to people downstream from earthquakes, storms or other problems.

Owned by cities, counties, utilities, water districts and others, these dams have lost nearly 330,000 acre-feet of storage capacity because of the state’s safety restrictions. That water — equivalent to the amount used by 3.6 million people for a year — could be used to supply communities, farms or hydropower.

Two years ago, in the depths of the most recent drought, Newsom touted dam repairs as a key approach to shore up water supplies squeezed by climate change. In his 2022 Water Supply Strategy, he referenced plans by his administration and the Legislature to create a grant program to “help local water districts regain lost storage capacity and improve public safety” of dams."

Rachel Becker reports for CalMatters June 13, 2024.

Source: CalMatters, 06/17/2024