For five, maybe six decades now, the Auburn Dam project has been a Hot-Button issue like few others in Northern California. Year-in and year-out water escapes the American River because there’s no place to store it. An Auburn Dam could be the answer. But as Mark Twain once wrote: “Whiskey is for drink’n and water is for fight’n over.”
”If this was a dam this would look like Shasta Lake,” it’s not hard to spring a conversation about the Auburn Dam; but tread lightly. Rick Nicholson, whose lived in Auburn for 30 years, talked about the possibilities as he gazed across an area where a reservoir could one day go, “I see right now it would be a long term boondoggle. No one has ever antied up to say they’d buy the water,” he says.
The Auburn Dam was approved in 1965. It would’ve spanned a canyon on the north and middle forks of the American River. At 700 feet high, graphic illustrations found on the internet, show what the dam might’ve looked like.
Talk of the project has stopped and started so many times, most have lost count. $200 million was spent on the Auburn Dam project before construction was stopped in 1980. The Foresthill Bridge stands as a lasting reminder and a monument to an idea that has never really died. But California desperately needs more water storage and Auburn is considered the best of the possibilities. Sightseer Daniel Parker put it this way, ”Folks want the water to stay here. Sometimes there’s a big resentment that Northern California’s water ends up in Southern California.”
As the new head of the House Water and Power Subcommittee Congressman Tom McClintock now has the political muscle to push the Auburn Dam project through Congress. McClintock was unavailable for comment, but the Republican from Elk Grove told a local newspaper, “Ultimately, it will be constructed. The only question is if it’s built in time to prevent the calamity.” The calamity he refers to is a major flood in Sacramento.
Before the Hurricanes of 2005 hit New Orleans, Sacramento was considered the most at-risk flood city in America. But environmentalists and geology could block the flow of progress. ”It’s got an earthquake fault where they want to build it. And, that’s reason enough right there,” reason enough not to build it says Mike Reitmeir of West Sacramento.
Originally pegged at $428 million, today’s cost for the Auburn Dam could be as much as $10 billion; and years of waiting.
The water debate is becoming more and more critical because there’s so much at stake. The Delta is fading fast, the out of state water--that helps feed--Southern California is running out and farmers are parched because their water allowances are being cut.
But if an Auburn Dam Project gains new life; brace yourselves for a bitter fight. Just like Mark Twain said.
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