Feds also want Los Padres Dam removed
Published: November 9, 2012
WHILE THE removal of the San Clemente
Dam has been postponed over concerns about how the project’s
construction traffic will affect nearby residential communities,
the National Marine Fisheries Service is stepping up efforts to
tear down Los Padres Dam, too.
NMFS is seeking public comment on a new “recovery plan” for
steelhead trout that live along what it calls the “South-Central
California Coast.” It held a little noticed public hearing on
the issue in Monterey Oct. 30.
Soliciting public comment is one step toward adopting the plan.
But it’s unclear how much weight the plan will carry.
Representatives from NMFS and Congressman Sam Farr’s office were
unavailable this week to talk about it.
But Dave Stoldt, general manager of the Monterey Peninsula
Water Management District, said the plan is something local
residents should pay attention to.
“You won’t find any timelines or cost estimates in the plan,”
Stoldt said. “But once [the idea of removing Los Padres Dam]
gets into a document as a solution, it becomes more real.”
Stoldt suggested the removal of the dam could create more
problems than it solves.
“Without a regulated flow in the river, significant stretches
could dry up,” he continued. “That’s not necessarily a healthy
situation from a fisheries standpoint.”
And if the river dries up, the water rights of property owners
who live alongside it could be jeopardized, he said.
Jeanne Byrne, a MPWMD board member, also encouraged local
residents to learn more about the plan to tear down Los Padres
“People should be aware that this is on the radar,” Byrne said.
“It forebodes a problem down the road.”
Built in 1948, Los Padres Dam is located about 25 miles
upstream from the Carmel River’s outlet to the ocean. The dam
was built to store 3,030 acre-feet of water, but by 2008, silt
had reduced its storage capacity to 1,775 acre-feet.
Released in September, the steelhead trout recovery plan
suggests removing the San Clemente and Los Padres dams to allow
steelhead “natural” rates of migration to upstream spawning and
rearing habitats, and passage of young trout downstream to the
Carmel River Lagoon and ocean.
Despite the fact that the species is one of the most common in
the world, the numbers of steelhead trout in the Carmel River
have declined significantly, resulting in NMFS listing what it
calls the “distinct population segment” and “biogeographic
population group” of the fish that lives along the Central
California coast as threatened in 1997.
It is unknown how much it would cost to tear down the dam,
although the removal of the considerably smaller San Clemente
Dam is estimated to be $83 million — and that number could climb
as the project encounters delays.
Congressman Farr has been an outspoken supporter of the plan to remove the San Clemente Dam.