Sally White: Is Castaic Dam ready for the big one? Are we?

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor
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On Sept. 1 the California Department of Water Resources, Division of Safety of Dams, released a report on the safety status of the 1,249 dams under its jurisdiction, including “downstream hazard classification, condition assessment, and reservoir restriction status” for each dam.

This information has been compiled to support the state’s ongoing efforts to be proactive and a leader in dam safety following the Lake Oroville “spillways incident” during heavy rains in the area. The overall plan is to strengthen the dam safety program and make the essential safety information readily accessible. It may be easily accessed online.

This report is of extreme importance to all of us living in this earthquake-prone valley as the Castaic Dam, our very close neighbor, has been given a rating of only “fair.”

This means that, while the dam can satisfactorily hold the amount of water it was designed for, it might have problems dealing with extra water or stresses such as those occurring during an earthquake. Downstream hazard has been rated “extremely high.”

As the reservoir capacity of Castaic Dam is 323,700 acre feet, and it is of earthen embankment construction (the same as the Oroville Dam), it behooves us to give some thought to the maximum damage to the dam that could possibly occur with a powerful earthquake that will likely come to pass one day. Do we have an evacuation plan ready in case parts of our valley become flooded?

How would that affect our water supply, transportation, emergency preparedness and other plans? How would such a catastrophe affect the two Newhall Ranch villages which have recently been approved?

How many more automobiles will we have on the freeways should we need to evacuate the area?

We have recently been witness, albeit from a distance, to the ravages of Mother Nature and how important it is to be prepared to face the 200-year flood, fire or earthquake. It’s time to start thinking and planning.
Sally White


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