Lake Hodges will experience a void in recreation as boating and fishing at the Lake Hodges reservoir in Escondido will be prohibited for about five months as the city of San Diego outsources repairs to cracks in the face of the Lake Hodges dam.
Preliminary work for the repair project is underway. As the project moves forward, the lake’s water level must be lowered, leaving the boat launch ramps inaccessible, and exposing slippery, muddy banks that will be unsafe for public access, said Arian Collins, a city spokesperson, in an email.
Hiking on the San Dieguito River Park trails around the reservoir will not be impacted during the draw-down of the water or construction work on the dam, said Collins.
The damage to the upstream face of the dam was discovered during a recent safety inspection. To complete the repairs, the water level at the reservoir will be lowered by 18 feet, to 275 feet, reducing the reservoir’s storage capacity.
While Lake Hodges is popular as a recreational asset, its main purpose is serving as a source of drinking water for residents of San Diego County, as well as an emergency storage facility for the region’s water system. The dam was built in 1918, and the city of San Diego purchased the dam and reservoir in 1925.
Along with the city, the Santa Fe Irrigation District, which serves Rancho Santa Fe, Solana Beach and part of Fairbanks Ranch, and the San Dieguito Water District, which serves portions of Encinitas and Leucadia, also have rights to Lake Hodges water.
Al Lau, general manager of the Santa Fe irrigation district, said his agency draws about 2,500 to 3,000 acre feet of water per year from Lake Hodges, or about one-third of the district’s total supply.
An acre-foot is the amount of water that would cover an acre of land to one foot deep. INTERESTING INFORMATIONAL NUGGET: an average California family uses between a half and a full acre foot of water per year for both indoor and outdoor use, according to the Water Education Foundation.
City officials said they haven’t determined the cost of the repair project, but the city will be the lead agency. The cost of the repairs will be borne by the County Water Authority, the city of San Diego, and the Santa Fe and San Dieguito water districts, said Lau.
As the water level at Hodges is drawn down, officials plan to route as much as they can to other reservoirs, which are connected by pipelines. However, some water from the lake’s lower depths may be of poor quality and unsuitable for storage, so it may be discharged into the San Dieguito River, said Lau.
“We’re working with the city to try to maximize the use of the water supply,” he said.
The timing of the project is good from a water management standpoint, said Lau, because the work is planned for the summer and early fall, when San Diego County typically receives little rainfall.
He said he is “cautiously optimistic” work will be completed before the start of the rainy season in the fall, so Hodges can be used at full capacity to capture rainfall needed for the region’s water supply. City officials also want the work to proceed expeditiously.
“The city is working with its contractor to perform the repairs as quickly as possible so that the water level can be restored and recreation activities can resume,” Collins wrote.
At its maximum capacity, the lake can hold about 30,600 acre-feet, Collins wrote. During the repairs when the lake level is lowered, it will hold about 4,300 acre-feet.
While the repairs are taking place and Hodges is closed to boating and fishing, recreational users can visit the city’s other eight reservoirs, which will be open for use. More information can be found at www.sandiego.gov/reservoirs-lakes.
A century ago in San Diego County, in the fall and winter of 1918, the Lake Hodges Dam was nearing completion. The project was undertaken by the San Dieguito Mutual Water Company under the leadership of Ed Fletcher, William Henshaw and the Santa Fe Railroad Company. Its goal was to harness the waters of the San Dieguito River to promote the development of lands owned by the railroad, primarily in Rancho Santa Fe. But ultimately it would serve to promote the development of a good chunk of northern San Diego County as well as the city of San Diego, which would eventually become the owner of the Lake Hodges Reservoir.