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Archive for the 'Auburn Dam' Category

Auburn Dam Water Rights Revoked

December 5th, 2008 by Malina

Auburn Dam–the project with more lives than an alley cat–has been dealt a mighty blow: on December 2, the California Water board voted unanimounsly to revoke the water rights it granted over 30 years ago to the US Bureau of Reclamation.  This means that the federal governement would have a seriously uphill battle to sucessfully build the dam, a project richer in controversy than the American River used to be in gold.  With no rights to store water, a dam would be largely pointless so it looks like the project is doomed.  But before you peel that sticker for or against the dam off your bumper, remember that this is one fight that dates back to the Cold War era so I don’t know…..could be resurrected yet.  In the meantime–and I confess this might betray a bias here–I’m stoked that we know the Middle Fork of the American river will be echoing with the sounds of rafters, fishermen, and gold miners for summers to come.

To learn more about the Water Board’s decision and see some photographs, read the article in the Sacramento Bee:


California’s Auburn Dam: The Saga Continues . . .

November 19th, 2008 by Malina

This is one controversy that takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin, I’ll tell you what.  After more than thirty years (!) the proposed Auburn Dam saga just got a whopping new chapter: the possibility that the State of California Water Board will revoke the water rights it granted to the Federal government back when Led Zepplin was playing to sold out concerts and Keith Richard still looked like he was made from flesh and bone, not lint, dust, and eyeliner shavings……

It’s a long and sordid tale–and provokes hard core emotions in people here in Nothern California–but the general deal is this:  The State of California gave the Feds the rights to the water that would be stored behind a dam built in the American river canyon.  After all these years, however, the dam’s supporters have failed to make any progress except for spending millions of taxpayer dollars on various studies.  Whether you like dams or not, the fact remains that the proposed dam site is located on a fault zone in a seismically unstable area.  And dams are proved to actually cause earthquakes because of the intense weight of all the water they store.  Major issues like that raise serious concerns not only for “conniving environmentalists,” as the dam’s uber-champion former US Representative John Doolittle likes to say, but for scientists, engineers, and everyday citizens as well.  When a 5.7 magnitude earthquake shook the proposed dam site back in 1975, new studies were undertaken (see millions of taxpayer dollars, above), but the issue has never been resolved.  In any case, for these and other reasons, the dam has been stalled for years, remaining a hotly contested issue–and the water rights granted to the Feds were never used.   If the Water Board revokes those rights, it means that even if the dam is built, water can’t be legally stored there.  I’m not a water specialist, but that seems like a major problem to me.

This latest development is certainly interesting, and it remains to be seen what the final verdict will be.  The water board is scheduled to make a ruling on the water rights issue on December 2nd–I’ll let you know what happens! 

PS: I took the Doolittle quote from an article I read in the LA Times. You can read it here: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-dam16-2008nov16,0,934558.story

PPSS: If you’re feeling skeptical about the seismic activity thing check out the US Geological Survey website and read the report on how dams effect–or even create–earthquake activity.  The link I’ve given you is specific to the proposed Auburn dam.

Long-Awaited Auburn Dam Study Predicts Costs in Excedence of 6 Billion Dollars

January 31st, 2007 by aorafting

Last year, Doolittle decided to use (ahem…waste..ahem) 1 billion taxpayer dollars for yet another study on the proposed Auburn Dam. A dam which, if built, would drown miles of the Middle and North Forks of the American River. And for the purpose of what? Water rights that don’t exist? Power that can be achieved at a much lower cost? And of course, the supposedly needed extra flood protection which isn’t worth a darn without improvements to Folsom first anyway, and which would protect against an amount of water not likely to ever be produced by the American River (For more background information please read previous posts about the Auburn Dam, or visit www.auburndamwatch.org.) For those of us who have seen through all this faulty reasoning for some time now and have viewed the proposal as both a waste of money and a waste of two invaluable river canyons, the results of Doolittle’s cost study are sweet redemption. The dam has been estimated to cost between six and ten times the original amount that is often cited by dam supporters, ringing in at an outrageous 6 to 10 billion dollars. As a mature and fiscally responsible citizen, a fan of sensical government planning and a steward of California’s beautiful river canyons, I have only this to say about the estimates: “Naa na na naa na!” Doolittle and the Auburn Dam Authority will be hard-pressed to prove that the benefits from such a dam could ever outweigh such high costs. And he was the one to order the study in the first place! It’s beautiful really.

To read the results for yourself, download the study from this website:

Auburn Dam the Focus of Recent Congressional Panel

April 9th, 2006 by Robyn Suddeth

The Auburn Dam has officially been resurrected from the dead. The last post I wrote warned that proponents of the dam were gaining momentum in D.C…well now they’re off and running. [For some background information, read some of these recent blogs about the Auburn Dam.]

David Whitney, of the Sacramento Bee, reported on Friday that “a House hearing Thursday on protecting the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta from catastrophic levee failures turned into a mini-rally for constructing an Auburn dam on the American River.” [Click here for the full article.]

Auburn Dam Proponents Gaining Momentum in DC

March 17th, 2006 by Robyn Suddeth

As a result of increased Folsom Dam costs and recent flood fears ignited by Hurricane Katrina, congressional supporters of an Auburn Dam have recently been successful in obtaining funding and powerful allies on Capitol Hill that lend momentum to a renewed fight for Auburn Dam’s construction. As a result, the dam has once again become a real possibility, and those of us who recognize its faults (literally and figuratively) need to start making some serious efforts to fight back…

At this point in time last year, most people had accepted that Auburn Dam was a dead idea. The tunnel diverting the American River away from the orginal damsite was finally scheduled to be re-filled as of 2007, and the Placer County Water Agency began construction on a pumping facility designed to extract water from the river’s natural channel. Moreover, Sacramento had obtained 200 million dollars in Federal funding for much-needed Folsom Dam improvements and levee repairs for the purpose of flood control.

But then two things happened.


Sacramento Newspaper Finds That Auburn Dam Would Be an “Expensive Mistake”

February 27th, 2006 by Robyn Suddeth

An article in the Sacramento Bee last Sunday reported that a proposed Auburn Dam on the American River “could be an expensive mistake.” This article couldn’t have come at a better time, considering all the renewed momentum that dam proponents gained from fears sparked by New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina, and Rep. John Doolittle’s recent attachment to an energy and water appropriations bill calling for a new 1 million dollar dam study. (See earlier post about Katrina Drawing Ill-Founded Support For the Auburn Dam.)

The Bee article, titled ‘Tempting Fate: A Torrent of Doubts,’ pointed out some very important myths and inherent inefficiencies in the dam’s location and design with regards to its supposed purpose as a multiuse dam. Among these are the limited amount of water the dam would have available to sell, the high price that this water would cost, the structure’s dangerous location on a fault line, and the liklihood that it would decrease, rather than increase, area recreational usage.

If all of this is true, then why is the Auburn Dam still on the table? And why do Doolittle and other dam proponents still have such a large base of support? (more…)

Hurricanes in California?- Katrina Disaster Unfortunately Drawing Ill-Founded Support for the Auburn Dam

February 2nd, 2006 by Robyn Suddeth

Senator Doolittle has lately been making attempts to put the Auburn Dam back on the table in national legislation. (The Auburn Dam would drown most of the Middle Fork American River canyon and half of the North Fork American.) Lending impetus to this idea is recent “That Could Happen To Us!” speculation that has followed the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

Although certainly not of the teenage-esque mindset that we are immune to natural catastrophe, I can’t help but notice elements of ignored common sense and hysteria within these recent warnings that Sacramento is doomed for the same fate as New Orleans.