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Dam Straight: Blocking and Unblocking Our Waterways
Photograph courtesy commons.wikimedia.org/Churnice
Rising 100 feet above Malibu Creek, the Rindge Dam was doomed early on. What was created in 1926 for water storage has been filled with sediment since the 1950s. It’s one of several dams being slated for demolition, not just to address safety issues, but to restore habitat. Plans to do away with four hydroelectric dams on Northern California’s Klamath River would free up 420 miles for wild salmon, while the sanctioned removal of the San Cle-mente Dam on the Central Coast’s Carmel River will open up 25 miles of fish habitat.
But as several dams may go down, others may go up: the Temperance Flat reservoir on the San Joaquin River and the Auburn Dam on the American River. Water agencies also want to heighten the Sacramento River’s Shasta and the Merced River’s Exchequer dams. The hitch is that with climate change, there might not be water to fill the deeper reservoirs. As Bill Jennings of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance has said, “If we had new reservoirs, they would be empty. We can pour all of the concrete we want, but we can’t pour rain.”