Sweetwater Dam prepares for a $7.5 million upgrade

State says dam doesn't meet current standards
Posted at 6:54 PM, Feb 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-13 21:54:31-05

Sweetwater Dam will undergo a $7.5 million dollar upgrade by 2018 to bring it up to California’s standards for dams. However, Sweetwater Authority engineers insist what is happening at the Lake Oroville Dam could not happen in the South Bay.

“This is an incredibly different situation. That [Oroville] is an earth dam. This is a concrete dam,” said Sweetwater Authority Engineering Manager Michael Garrod.

He will oversee the upgrade for the dam that will add concrete walls on the sides of the century-old dam.

“The structural integrity of this dam has not changed. It absolutely is a safe dam,” said Garrod.

However, Garrod said California’s Division of Safety of Dams has changed the standards for dams in recent years and Sweetwater Dam no longer meets those standards. Garrod said Sweetwater needs to be prepared for a 100,000-year flood, something Sweetwater has never seen.

“Whatever they say, they are the professionals,” he said.

Garrod gave 10News a tour of the dam Monday to show where Sweetwater would build additional 10-foot-tall concrete walls on both sides of the dam.

“That’s where dams fail, is in the abutments,” Garrod said while pointing to where the dam meets the hillside on both sides.

Garrod said adding the concrete walls to the abutments will force rising water levels towards to center of the dam where the water can safely spill over the top.

“Any water that comes over the dam will only touch concrete and it will be diverted over the concrete dam, down river,” said Garrod.

The dam would not be in jeopardy of collapsing.

“We’re in final design right now and construction should begin in the first part of 2018,” he said about the plan.  It’s expected to be completed by the end of 2018.