Lake Hodges relationship with Olivenhain Reservoir
LAKE HODGES in ESCONDIDO, CALIFORNIA -- The first of 8 billion gallons of water gushed into Olivenhain Reservoir on August 7, 2003 amid the cheers and handshakes of orange-vested workers and water officials.
At a pump station on the opposite side of the brand-new, 318-foot-tall dam, a worker opened a 54-inch valve.
Soon, water -- 20 cubic feet of it per second -- spilled from a "window" centered in the 2,500-foot-wide curtain of granite, concrete and steel.
"All right!" hollered one worker, as water piped from the Colorado River and California Aqueduct crashed onto powdery soil. "We finally see the day!"
Swirling, lapping water, gallon after gallon of it, inched its way upward against the rubbery membrane that lines the $200 million dam. That cost includes an adjoining pump station and surrounding network of roads.
It will take 10 months to fill the 200-acre basin, which sits in a saddle created by scrubby hills. Beneath the brush is solid granite, which, for the last three years, crews have blasted and crushed to provide material to build the dam.
All told, the dam has 159 2-foot-tall steps of rolled and compacted granite that are layered like a petrified cake to form the largest dam of its kind in the country.
The cascading water signaled a milestone in the San Diego County Water Authority's $827 million effort to create an emergency water supply, should droughts, earthquakes or other calamities isolate the county from faraway water sources.
The Emergency Storage Project includes 17 jobs programmed into four phases to link three reservoirs, including Olivenhain, Lake Hodges near Escondido and San Vicente Reservoir in Ramona.
The storage project, officials say, will be able to sustain San Diego County's 3 million residents for up to six months.
Officials lined up for photographs near the base of the dam but soon sought higher ground as the water climbed and soil crumbled away around their boots.
The plan is to fill the Olivenhain Reservoir 30 feet at a time, then allow 14 days for testing and inspections. The Water Authority will send its data to the state Department of Water Resources, Division of Safety of Dams, said Jerry Reed, project manager for Olivenhain Reservoir.
According to Reed, the Emergency Storage Project will provide the added benefit of recreation destinations.
A security plan for Olivenhain Reservoir does not yet exist, but officials say the authority will most likely permit hiking around the waterway. Vehicular access to the reservoir would be off-limits to visitors.
Dave McCollom, Olivenhain Municipal Water District's general manager, said that he hopes "walk-in fishing" would be allowed and that the reservoir would be stocked through state or federal programs.
The reservoir, which will become the agency's main water source, is partially funded by assessments levied throughout the Olivenhain water district, which serves 50,000 customers in Encinitas, Carlsbad, Elfin Forest, 4S Ranch and portions of San Marcos, Solana Beach and San Diego.
Crews are in the midst of boring a 1.5-mile pipeline to connect Olivenhain Reservoir and Lake Hodges. When that's finished, in 2006, depleted Lake Hodges again will brim with water.
"You'll be able to see a lake again from I-15," Reed said.
Because Olivenhain Reservoir is not fed by a river or substantial watershed, the authority will maintain water levels at two feet below the brim of the dam, Reed said.
In an emergency, the reservoir could gravity-feed water to the entire county for 10 days.
Reed estimated that the dam project employed more than 300 workers in the last three years. It is the first major dam to open in the county in 50 years.