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The Sorry State of San Diego Dams

There are three* or four** dams in San Diego county which are rated as being in 'Poor' condition. All are rated as 'High' hazard-potential classification, and all of them owned and managed by the city of San Diego. The dams are: Lake Hodges; El Capitan; and Savage/Lower Otay; (also Morena, depending on which assessment-source is used.)

Why the discrepancy between three or four? For one thing, getting up-to-date information on the state of our local dams has proven difficult. Most data is not readily available, and what little there is gives minimal information. The data sets also frequently lag a year or two in being updated. When I asked for copies of the inspection reports, the Division of Safety of Dams (DoSD) referred me to some links that provided minimal details (I am still awaiting more records.) For my same inquiry to the City of San Diego (who apparently somehow knew of my request to DoSD), they used circular reasoning and demurred, saying I'd already received the info from the State of California (which, BTW, I have not - only cursory links.)

{*** Update 1/21/2023 - The City acquiesced and provided copies of the dam inspection reports, which I will link to in a future post.}

Luckily, because I had monitored the Santa Fe Irrigation District water board for another reason (voting for continued teleconferencing), I stumbled upon this presentation given to them by the City of San Diego during their September 15, 2022 meeting.

While the state of disrepair of these dams is troubling enough, it is even more disheartening to see Mayor Todd Gloria and the San Diego City Council now want to pivot to new wishlist pet projects (like a grand Central Mobility Hub and/or new City Hall) before replacing critical infrastructure like these dams that are in such bad shape. Priorities, Mayor Gloria, priorities! Fix your dams before looking forward to other projects. The citizens downstream from these ticking timebombs deserve no less.

[Stay tuned for an upcoming post specific to the dire condition of Lake Hodges. While the City of San Diego said that the Hodges dam is in the worst shape of all the dams, it does beg the question of what degree of "better" the other dams are. ]


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