History

The following chronology is taken from The Auburn Dam Reader. The Reader was compiled by Sierra College ECOStudents and their advisor Joe Medeiros. The Chronology includes studies and events relating to the Auburn Dam Project.

  • October 1949 – Construction begins on $100 million Folsom Dam.
  • January 1953 – Flood waters caused by heavy rains wash out part of the Folsom construction site and break through a levee on the Feather River.
  • March 1955 – Army Corps of Engineers begins operations at completed Folsom Dam.
  • January 1956 – Folsom Dam is credited with saving Sacramento from devastating floods over the 1955 Christmas holiday season.
  • 1957 – Decision 893: Reclamation and CA Department of Fish and Game agree as part of the Folsom water rights permitting process to maintain minimum flows in the Lower American River ranging from 250 to 500 cfs (234,000 acre ft/yr) to provide for the anadromous fish population (salmon, steelhead, trout and shad).
  • January 1958 – Out of concern that Folsom Dam provided inadequate flood protection a $65 million flood control dam is proposed for the American River.
  • January 1959 – Legislation is introduced in Congress to authorize the $145 million Auburn Dam, which would provide 1 million acre-feet of water storage. Project is not approved at this early stage and goes back for changes.
  • January 1963 – Legislation to authorize a $415 million Auburn Dam and canal system is introduced in Congress.
  • October 1963 – White House agrees to include the Auburn Dam and canal in President Kennedy’s annual budget request, but final approval is delayed two years.
  • August 1965 – Congress sends to President Johnson a $425 million authorization bill for Auburn Dam and Folsom South Canal.
  • September 1965 – President Johnson signs the authorization bill into law as an addition to the Federal Central Valley Project. (Public Law 89-161). The authorization included the Auburn Dam, Reservoir and powerplant; the Folsom South Canal (FSC); Sugar Pine Dam and Reservoir; and County Line Dam and Reservoir and conveyance to be operated in conjunction with pumping from Folsom Reservoir.
  • June 1967 – Design features of Auburn Dam are made public and construction begins. Folsom South Canal (FSC) construction begins in 1968.
  • February 1970 – Folsom South Canal construction continues with dynamite blasts for tunnel.
  • 1972 – Completed construction of the 33-foot diameter, 2,400-foot long diversion tunnel.
  • 1972 – Decision 1400 – This decision grew out of hearings on water rights applications for Auburn Dam. State Water Resources Control Board established minimum flows in the Lower American River at a level higher than previously contemplated. These minimum flows vary with the time of the year from 1,250 to 1,500 cfs. The minimum flow requirements are in two parts – those for fish year-around, and those for recreation during the summer. The higher of the two requirements at any given time is the minimum flow requirement. This Decision applies to Auburn water rights only. The minimum flow required is to be maintained from Nimbus to the mouth of the American River.
  • March 1973 – Sacramento County supervisor protest construction of the Auburn Dam because it would harm recreation, fish and wildlife along the American River.
  • November 1973 – Environmentalists challenge the Auburn Dam in court.
  • 1973 – Completed construction of two of five reaches (27 miles) of the FSC. The secretary stopped further construction on the canal to provide time for additional studies on Lower American River minimum flow problem, and to consider alternative plans for meeting the authorized water supply commitment.
  • April 1974 – A federal judge orders the US Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) to file a more complete environmental report on the dam.
  • June 1974 – A $61.8 million contract is awarded by the BOR for the first phase of the Auburn Dam construction.
  • October 1974 – A federal judge clears the way for construction of the dam, now estimated to cost $847.5 million.
  • 1975 – Completed construction of 265-foot high cofferdam. Nearing the completion of keyway excavation a foundation treatment for the concrete arch Auburn Dam and powerplant.
  • July 1975 – A government report says the dam could survive an 8.0 magnitude earthquake centered 50 miles east or an 8.5 magnitude quake 100 miles west.
  • August 1975 – The dam site is shaken by a 5.7 magnitude quake centered 41 miles away at Oroville, on a fault previously thought inactive. Construction is suspended on Auburn Dam and powerplant until further seismic evaluations.
  • July 1976 – A committee of scientists is appointed to study how the dam would withstand an earthquake.
  • 1976 – 1980 – Seismic evaluations conducted by Reclamation and the State of California. Alternative plans and designs were developed and studied.
  • 1980 – Results of seismic studies. The Secretary of the Interior announced a safe dam could be constructed at the Auburn Dam site, and the safest design would be a concrete gravity dam (these results and designs are still much debated). The Secretary announced, before construction could resume, the flow requirements on the Lower American River for the fishery and recreation had to be resolved.
  • 1981 – Construction completed on Sugar Pine Dam and reservoir located in North Shirttail Canyon about 7 miles north of Foresthill. The earth and rockfill dam is 205 feet high with a total cpacity of 6,921 acre-feet of water. The water is piped 9 miles to the Foresthill Public Utility District for M & I purposes.
  • 1982 – Studies completed by Reclamation and the US Fish and Wildlife Service indicated that if the lower American River were to be operated for optimum fishery purposes, minimum flows should be maintained at levels higher than Decision 1400.
  • March 1983 – The price tag for the dam swells to $2.1 billion.
  • 1984 – The President, in a letter to Senator Laxalt, announced a national water project financing and cost-sharing policy. It indicated that all Federal water development agencies would seek out new partnership arrangements with States and other non-Federal interests in the financing and cost sharing of all proposed projects. Project beneficiaries, not necessarily governmental entities, should ultimately bear a substantial part of the cost of all project development. Joint State-Federal Auburn Dam Task Force was established to review cost allocations based on benefits in order to determine the financial capabilities of the beneficiaries and to recommend contractual/organizational mechanisms for completion of the project. The Options for Auburn-Folsom South Unit prepared jointly by BOR and California Department of Water Resources (DWR) presented construction and operation options and other information related to financial partnership arrangements for the Unit. Seventeen non-Federal entities expressed an interest in participating financially in various aspects of the project, including the State which has expressed its interest in the water and power aspects of the project.
  • 1985 – DWR and BOR contracted with Bechtel National, Inc. to evaluate the curved, concrete gravty dam design developed during the 1975-80 seismic studies (conducted by BOR and the State) to see if there was a less costly project, or projects, which would provide the same level of water supply, power generation and flood control.
  • 1985 – Bechtel National, Inc. completed its Final Report on the Evaluation of the Auburn Dam Project. The report recommended that a substantial cost savings be made in Auburn Dam and powerplant by relocating the dam to River Mile 19.0 and adopting a new method of construction; that further investigation of the technical feasibility of the less-costly project be made; that a non-Federal water and power project consisting of a straight roller compacted concrete gravity dam (one of four types recommended) at Mile 19.0, a 300- or 400-megawatt (MW) powerplant, and relocation of Highway 49 on a bridge would be financially feasible for reservoirs ranging in size from 800,000 to 2,326,000 acre feet; and that the addition of pumped storage power generation capability might significantly improve project economics.
  • 1986 – A technical group, comprised of representatives from BOR, DWR, Western Area Power Administration and Congressman Shumway’s office, completed an analysis of the Bechtel report. The Evaluation of Auburn Dam Reformulation and Bechtel Report was by BOR documenting the technical group’s recommendations. The fourth alternative of a straight-axis concrete gravity dam at the existing Mile 20.1 site is recommended. This design has no inherent drawbacks. Ample experience exists with dams of this type and size. It is the same design selected by the Secretary in 1980 as a result of the extensive geologic, seismic and design studies which followed the Oroville Earthquake of 1975. The site conditions are well known, as most of teh foundation work is complete. The EIS for Auburn Dam includes a conventionally placed concrete gravity dam. Even though it is the slightly more expensive of the four alternatives recommended by Bechtel, it remains economically attractive. If Reclamation were to build the dam, this is the design and site recommended.
  • February 1986 – Major storms in northern California caused record floodflows in the American River Basin. Peak outflows from Folsom Reservoir of 130,000 cfs exceeded the maximum designed flood reservoir releases of 115,000 cfs. (In spite of torrential rains from February 7 – 12, Folsom is releasing only 4,400 cfs during this time and Folsom is maintained at approximately 710,000 acre feet. Cofferdam at Auburn is filling fast. February 18th, cofferdam is breached and partially washed away. Folsom has to increase discharge to 131,000 cfs, placing downstream levees and cities at great risk.) At the request of BOR and DWR the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) conducted a special study to review and update teh hydrology of the American River and determine areas of potential flooding to review and update alternative flood control measure provided to BOR in 1974 and 1982 and described in previous studies and to reevaluate teh flood control benefits of the alternative measures.
  • 1987 – The Special Sudy on the Lower American River, California prepared by the Corps for BOR and DWR indicated that the February 1986 flood was about a 70-year event and that Folsom Reservoir is capable of controlling only about the 63-year flood to 115,000 cfs. In addition, the curently estimated peak flow for the 100-year flood along the Lower American River is about 230,000 cfs. Preliminary findings showed the following: 1) An area of Sacramento containing over 25,000 people and having a value of flood damageable property of about $15 billion is estimated to have as low as a 63-year level of flood protection. 2) Most of the measures reviewed in the study could achieve increases in the level of flood protection along main-stem American River to about 100 years, and 3) High levels of protection (i.e., 200 years or better) could be achieved by construction of new storage upstream of Folsom Reservoir. Note the 1995 Corps study showed three options:
    1. Folsom Modification – 1 in 180 year protection, $248-365 million
    2. Folsom Stepped Release – 1 in 235 year protection, $543-587 million
    3. Auburn Detention Dam – 1 in 500 year protection, $934 million
  • 1987 – H.R. 1605 cited as the Auburn Dam Revival Act of 1987 introduced on March 12 by Mr. Shumway. The bill amended the September 2, 1965 Act and the Flood Control Act of 1970. Two specific changes were: 1) The Auburn-Folsom South unit shall release a minimum of 1,200 – 2,000 cfs to the Lower American River, and 2) included provisions for non-Federal cost sharing in the project.
  • 1988 – Representatives Vic Fazio and Robert Matsui introduced a $600 million plan to build a flood control dam and downstream levee repairs. Bill was not heard in committee and was reintroduced in 1989.
  • 1988 – Corps began a feasibility study on a dry dam (flood control only), an expandable dam, and a minimum pool dam.
  • 1989 – Corps study reverted back to a dry dam only study, as no local sponsor was willing to pay for the additional cost of an expandable dam or the minimum pool dam.
  • 1989 – Sacramento area water agencies began efforts to sponsor a multipurpose Auburn Dam study that would parallel the Corps study.
  • 1990 – Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency (SAFCA) endorses a flood control dam that could be expanded in the future to provide water and power. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) studies the feasibility and desirability of a National Recreation Area in the American River Basin which will include the lands in the Auburn Reservoir takeline.
  • 1991 – Corps released the draft of their dry dam study recommending 384-year protection. This 494-foot high Rolled Compressed Concrete (RCC) dam would be capable of holding back 894,000 acre feet of flood flow.
  • 1991 – The local sponsor of a multipurpose Auburn Dam requested the BOR to conduct a feasibility study for a multipurpose Auburn Dam. This is a 4 – 5 year, $5 million effort. (American River Watershed Investigation)
  • 1992 – Corps authorized to do extensive levee repairs around Sacramento.
  • March 1992 – Bush administration does not support Auburn Dam component of Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill. Administrative agencies do not concur. Project sponsors (Fazio and Matsui) press ahead. The new bid for a $638 million flood control dam dies in the House (270 to 140) over concerns about cost and the dam’s potential expansion for water storage. Since then…
    • $5 million to BOR for American River Water Resources Investigation
    • $13 million to Corps for American River Watershed Investigation (began in 1988) now completed as the American River Watershed Project
  • February 1993 – BOR determines sections of American River (North and Middle Forks) to be inundated by Auburn Dam to be Eligible for National Wild and Scenic River status, finding numerous ORV’s (Outstandingly Remarkable Values) in each of eight categories.
  • October 1995 – House Energy and Water Development appropriations bill for 1996 projects little funding availability for projects that involve large outyear mortgages. John Zirschky, acting assistant secretary of the Army for civil works voiced “given the current budget situation, it seems unlikely that funding ceilings will permit the Army to budget for the Auburn Dam”.
  • October 1995 – Environemental Protection Agency (EPA) concludes that the construction of Auburn Dam is “environmentally unacceptable” because of potential devastation of the prisitine American River canyon. Congressman John T. Doolittle, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Water and Power delivers an ultimatum to SAFCA. He dictates to them that he will not support any flood control project for Sacramento unless it includes an expandable (multipurpose) dam at Auburn.
  • October 10, 1995 – Comments due to Corps regarding American River Watershed Project Draft Main Report/DSEIS/SDEIR.
  • October 12, 1995 – Corps publishes results of written comments and public hearings. A total of 1,435 written comments were received. An additional 183 people provided oral testimony at the public hearings, for a total of 1,618 individual comments. Eighty-nine percent (1,435) opposed construction of any type of dam in the American River Canyon. Seven percent (107) supported either a flood detention dam or a multi-purpose dam. The remaining 4% did not express an opinion, or raised other issues relative to the project or environmental documents.
  • November 1995 – SAFCA backs a $1 billion flood conrol dam and levee project with a 7/6 vote by the SAFCA Board.
  • December 1995 – BOR issues Draft Planning Report or ARWRI study area indicating projected demand for an additional 525,100 acre-feet/year needed by year 2030. Recommends two alternatives; conjunctive use and Auburn Dam.
  • February 1996 – BOR issues “Completion of Studies” notice for ARWProject Supplemental Information Report.
  • February 1996 – US Geological Survey report questions about whether a quake-proof Auburn Dam can be built. USGS states the 17-year old seismic studies need to be updated to include new information.
  • February 1996 – Representative Thomas Petri introduces H.R. 2951 which would block federal financing of Auburn Dam. He cites “financial constraints, environmental concerns and the availability of less expensive, less environmentally intrusive alternatives”.
  • February 1996 – Auburn Dam cited in “Green Scissors Report ’96″ which identifies proposed federal spending that numerous taxpayer and environmental groups believe Congress should eliminate. The report charged that the proposed Auburn Dam is one of nearly 50 federal projects that exemplify wasteful and ecologically dangerous ideas.
  • March 1996 – Clinton administration proposes drastic reductions in Federal cost-sharing (from 75% to 50%) of flood control projects. Increases local share of Auburn Dam from $240 million to $475 million. Lieutenant General Arthur E. Williams, Chief of the Corps, rejects the Corps (Sacramento office) proposal for the Auburn Dam and recommends proceeding with levee repairs along the American and Sacramento Rivers and implementing river inflow gauges and an emergency flood warning system for Sacramento.
  • March 1996 – Auburn Dam’s chief sponsor, Representative John Doolittle joins with Representatives Robert Matsui, Vic Fazio and Richard Pombo in an attempt to present a united front before a House subcommittee.
  • March 1996 – BOR schedules five workshops for questions/discussions of draft ARWRI reports. ARWRI reports provide only two alternatives for meeting long-term water supply needs of the ARWRI study area; 1) Conjunctive Use and 2) Auburn Dam.
  • April 1996 – BOR schedules five hearings for comments prior to finalizing ARWRI reports.