Saturday, October 08, 2005

Let's talk about building Auburn dam

Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounaakis wrote a very thoughtful article of that title yesterday and I hope that her call to public leadership will be responded to.

Having the once-agreed-upon solution to our flooding problem off the table of flood solution discussion, as she described in her service with the Sacramento Water Forum, (SWF) is the thinking that doomed New Orleans.

It also explains the reaction I received shortly after forming the American River Parkway Preservation Society in 2003 and approaching the SWF for policy information about protecting the salmon in the American River by providing the optimal protective conditions of appropriate water temperature and water flow.

I asked the SWF leadership what solution the agency had determined could provide those optimal conditions, and a large dam holding cold water that could be released when needed was never mentioned.

It is hoped our public leadership will heed Ms.Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis’s implicit advice and create a proper forum for public discussion about solving the problem of major flooding, with every solution on the table.

Our community, with the beauty and serenity of the Parkway as its natural heart, await that leadership.

Here is her article and the link:

Monday, October 10, 2005
Another Voice
Let's talk about building Auburn dam
Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis
Sacramento Business Journal

After the devastating floods of New Orleans, I was really hopeful that our community leaders would start talking again about how we need to build the Auburn dam. But even faced with the realities of New Orleans, few seemed to want to wade back into the debate over the dam. At least, not on the side of why we should build it.

I should probably follow their lead. I mean, I've got an SUV and a place to go.

But I have this image that I can't get out of my head of a woman standing on her rooftop, clutching her babies and waving a white flag. And I know that without the Auburn dam, there is a very real chance it will one day happen here.

The levees won't be strong enough: If you didn't know it before, you should know by now that levees are no match for a major act of Mother Nature. But a lot of people have known this for a long time. And back in the days when our leaders thought big, back in the days when we built the University of California campuses and the interstate freeways, California had a plan.

In 1965, after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined that it would be the best protection against a major flood, construction of the Auburn dam was authorized by the federal government. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held in 1968, and a giant concrete and steel foundation was poured.

The government bought land upstream from the dam to set aside as a new water reservoir. A 720-foot-tall bridge was built to carry traffic from one side to another. Construction got under way on the Folsom South Canal to incorporate the Auburn dam into the new enhanced flood control system.

In the mid-1970s, however, earthquake concerns were raised. The Bureau of Reclamation hired a panel to review the concerns, and it eventually came up with design modifications so the structure could withstand geologic shifts.

But it was the political ground that shifted. By the late 1970s, opposition to dam building had become a major tenet of the environmental movement. A debate raged for more than 20 years. Then in 1992 there was a meeting of the minds. Local congressmen Bob Matsui, Vic Fazio and John Doolittle (representing roughly the left, the center and the right of the American political spectrum) all agreed to go together to ask Congress for the funding to build the dam.

They were, first and foremost, concerned with the safety of the people of this region.

For the rest of the story: