Coastal Conservancy Releases Funds for San Clemente Dam Removal

Last week, the California State Coastal Conservancy voted to authorize a grant award of up to $32 million of public funding to California American Water (CAW) for implementation of the San Clemente Dam Removal Project in Monterey County. This important vote brings the long-awaited plan for dam removal closer to fruition for the public/private partnership between the state and the water company.

With the funds approved, CAW plans to break ground by the end of September to remove the 106-foot-high concrete-arch San Clemente Dam. The $83 million project will help restore to health the Carmel River, which once supported a thriving steelhead run, and will help safeguard downstream communities along California’s central coast that are currently at risk if the dam fails.  As part of the partnership agreement, CAW will also donate over 900 acres of land adjacent to the Ventana Wilderness area in the Carmel Valley.

The project will provide tremendous environmental benefits, including removal of a significant barrier to the migration of steelhead trout to upstream spawning areas, as well as protection of critical wildlife habitat for species like the federally threatened California red-legged frog. The plan to demolish the aging dam also has support from the community as the best response to resolve earthquake safety issues determined by the state’s Division of Safety of Dams.

The largest ever dam removal project in California is moving forward because of an innovative public-private partnership between CAW and the State Coastal Conservancy, with the support of the National Marine Fisheries Service and more than two dozen regional, state and national conservation groups, elected officials and regulatory partners. The PCL Foundation has played a critical role in helping foster this partnership between local, state and federal agencies, environmental groups and businesses since the project’s inception.

“Hopefully, taking down the San Clemente Dam is just the first of many major removals throughout the state that will begin the process of restoring our rivers and streams back to health,” noted Bruce Reznik, Executive Director of the Planning and Conservation League Foundation.