Frequently Asked Questions
Simply put, the Auburn Dam will develop long term flood control, water and power for the five adjacent counties: placer, El Dorado, San Joaquin, Yolo, and Sacramento.
The Auburn Dam is vital to California’s future because:
1. The Auburn Dam will protect lives. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento has one of the lowest levels of flood protection of any U.S. city of its size. Auburn Dam will provide 500-year flood protection. If our levees fail, over 170 square miles of the Sacramento Valley could be flooded. Many of the over 400,000 residents in the floodplain would be threatened with extensive property damage, injury, or death
2. The Auburn Dam will provide significant water storage capacity to augment and balance future water needs. The reservoir behind the Auburn Dam will be capable of storing over 2 million acre feet of water, providing ample storage which prevents cutbacks and rationing during droughts saving our citizens from a major water shortage.
3. Auburn Dam will provide energy in the form of clean hydroelectric power. It is estimated that the project will be able to generate up to 600 Megawatts of electricity…energy we will be able to sell in times of surplus.
By building the Auburn Dam we will protect lives and provide generously for human water needs as well as those of fish, the Delta wetlands, and endangered species.
The Bureau of Reclamation estimates it will cost three billion dollars to build a multi-purpose Auburn Dam.The general plan for funding the dam calls for formation of a Joint Powers Authority of about seven local counties who need the dam’s flood control protection and would also benefit from its water and electric power supply.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has developed three plans to increase the level of flood protection for Sacramento residents from the current 100-year level.
- THE FOLSOM MODIFICATION PLAN calls for the permanent “reoperation” (draining) of Folsom Reservoir each winter to make room for seasonal flood flows, improvements to Folsom Dam, and the 36 miles of downstream levees. This plan would provide Sacramento with 180-year level flood protection (a 1 in 180 chance in any one year of flooding). This plan includes lowering the dam spillway and increasing release capacity of dam river outlets, implementing an advanced warning flood plain evacuation plan, and improving 24 miles of downstream levees. The Folsom Modified alternative offers the lowest level of flood protection of the three plans, Sacramento could expect the highest average annual equivalent flood damages: $90 million.
- FOLSOM STEPPED RELEASE PLAN is similar to the Folsom Modification plan. It would add extensive modifications to 36 miles of American River levees, Sacramento Weir and Bypass, and Yolo Bypass levees to permit elevated releases from Folsom Dam of up to 180,000 cubic feet per second (cfs)-a 56% increase over the current capacity of these levees. The Stepped Release alternative would provide a 235-year level of flood protection for Sacramento (1 in 235 chance of flooding in any one year) and have a 32% chance of breach in the event of a 200-year storm. This plan does not meet the minimum flood protection standards for Sacramento. Average annual equivalent flood damage has been calculated at $80 million.
- Detention Dam would provide Sacramento with an extremely high 500-year level of protection in accordance with federal guidelines. The chance that a 200-year flood event would overwhelm the dam and levee improvements is a minuscule 3%. The dam would provide a level of protection that would no longer require flood insurance.
Although the most expensive of the three plans, the dam alternative provides 1.5 times greater net average annual flood control benefits than the other two plans, together with a benefit to cost ratio of 1.8 to 1. A 1991 report developed for Congress stated, “For highly urbanized areas such as Sacramento, a flood detention facility is preferred over levees. Reliance on levees for flood protection is inherently less safe than an upstream detention dam.”
The Detention Dam plan would increase water storage over the current Folsom Reservoir reoperation plan. The potential exists for joint flood operation of Folsom and the flood control dam at Auburn, adding to the region’s available water and power supply. The Corps has calculated this increase in water, power, and recreation at Folsom to be $2.6 millin each year or $58.5 million over the life of reoperation.
The Detention Dam alternative would allow would allow the discontinuation of the Folsom Reoperation Plan. This would allow for higher Folsom Reservoir levels which could benefit downstream fisheries with better water quality and colder temperatures. High lake levels at Folsom Reservoir would enhance the beauty of the lake and the recreational experience. Downstream levee improvements included in this alternative will impact the American River Parkway. Depending on the size of the flood event, the dam will temporarily back up the north and middle forks of the American River, inundating up to 5,500 acres. Approximately 1369 acres of the canyon would be lost to the operation of the project: 79% oak woodland, 8% chaparral, 6% pine forest, and 7% riverine habitat. Mitigation and in-kind replacement for project impacts are included in this alternative.
While you may not reside in an area designated as “floodplain”, it is likely you may have friends or loved ones that may be at risk during a severe flood. Your support for the Auburn Dam is support for the people who are important in your life.
The cycles of floods and droughts are as inevitable as seasons of the year. The 1987-1992 drought demonstrated the water supply vulnerability of the state. You may recall the mandatory water conservation measures and the rationing of water for both resident and business that were taken at the time. Our farmers suffered a drastic cutback in surface water supply and there was considerable strain on key environmental habitats.
It is no secret that the success of California is in large part attributed to the safe, reliable, and economical water supply. Our Golden State is experiencing phenomenal growth and our population is expected to reach 49 million by 2020. Our current facilities will not meet public demand for water to meet the needs of residents, farms and industry. The California Water Plan Update warns that the state is facing constant water supply shortages that could have a devastating impact on the state’s economy.
As a water user you may also be interest to learn that under the Folsom Modified Plan and Folsom Stepped Release plan, local water users are likely to pay substantially higher pumping costs to deliver water in perpetuity.
A number of key legislators and former legislators have supported the Auburn Dam.
"We can provide all the short-term solutions we want, but without the Auburn Dam , we will never truly solve this region's water management crisis." Congressman John Dootlittle
"California faces a major shortage in energy production and water storage. I have proposed many bills to address these issues, and remain committed to finding the solutions to these problems. Along with Congressman John Doolittle, I strongly support such projects as the Auburn Dam."
Former State Senator Rico Oller
"In light of these critical needs, we simply can no longer allow ourselves to be bullied around by extremist groups that oppose common sense progress at all costs, no matter how environmentally friendly it may be. We can have clean energy, adequate flood protection, and stave off our impending water crisis, and we can do this in a remarkably clean, environmentally friendly way. We can have all of these things, but we cannot have them without the Auburn Dam."
The Auburn Dam project attempts to integrate flood-control, water, and environmental policy into a single vision for California’s future. Unfortunately, diverse priorities, political gamesmanship and costs have kept the various interests apart. State and local supporters of the Auburn Dam project have clung to the idea that the federal government should build the structure with minimal state and local contributions. State and local environmental opposition have been effective in creating Environmental Impact Statement delays, and later on, using fish and riparian concerns to create a generalized public opposition. As the haggling goes on, Sacramento’s levees continue to deteriorate, areas designated as “floodplain” are being built and populated, and Sacramento remains at risk for the significant loss of life and property when the big flood hits.