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Dam removal to cost ratepayers $49M

By KELLY NIX

Published: Sept. 24, 2010

CALIFORNIA AMERICAN Water has filed an application with the state so it can begin the extensive and costly process of removing the San Clemente Dam on the Carmel River to improve habitat for the river’s population of steelhead trout.

Cal Am announced this week it filed an application with the California Public Utilities Commission to remove the dam in order to “resolve seismic safety concerns” associated with the dam and restore habitat for the steelhead trout population.

The cost to remove the 106-foot-high dam, which is almost completely filled with sediment, is estimated to be $85 million

Cal Am committed $49 million and dedicated 928 acres where the dam is located as parkland. The Coastal Conservancy and NOAA will raise an additional $35 million needed for the removal project through a combination of public funding and private donations.

If the project to remove the dam is approved, local ratepayers will pay their share from 2012 to 2017.

Average residential water users — those who use about 500 gallons of water per month — will see their current rate of about $35 per month increase to about $38 per month by 2017.

“One of the major benefits of this collaborative public-private project is that we can provide significant benefits to the Carmel River while ensuring a fair cost to our customers,” Cal Am spokeswoman Catherine Bowie told The Pine Cone.

However, residential customers who use lots of water will see large rate increases. For instance, those who use about 5,000 gallons of water a month currently pay about $207 for it. But by 2017, those customers’ bills will go up more than $200, to $447 per month.

In 1991, the California Department of Water Resources Division of Safety of dams agreed with a Cal Am consultant’s assertion that Dam built in 1921, did not meet modern seismic stability and flood safety standards. At first, Cal Am proposed strengthening the dam, but under pressure from environmental groups decided to remove it.