Isabella Dam’s long-awaited repair work was completed with a ribbon-cutting ceremony held by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday. The dam, considered one of the most essential infrastructure projects in Kern County, was initially constructed in the early 1950s.
Isabella Dam was previously believed to be one of America’s most dangerous dams and was in dire need of repair in 2006.
The dam’s repair work was put on high priority after it was found that it might fail to withstand a major seismic event. Even heavy floods were found to cause harm to the dam’s structure, putting surrounding communities at risk.
The project cost was estimated at $323 million, and it eventually took ten years of construction to complete. A fully fortified dam and auxiliary dam, enlarged spillways, and a massive labyrinth weir were ready as planned.
Kevin McCarthy, the House Speaker, expressed his gratitude to the workers and thanked them for the successful completion of the project. Early stages of the construction faced some challenges, with safety upgrades starting in 2013. A massive weir was consequently built to support channel flows during major flood events. The walls of the spillways were strengthened by anchor bolts sunk into the rockbed, and the tops of the main and auxiliary dams were raised to increase lake capacity.
With a crew of 300 working in two separate shifts per day, the project came to completion and now will help protect the Kern River Valley. The timing couldn’t be better for the completion of the project, as a record-breaking snowpack is waiting to come down the mountains.
The modifications are now finished, and the Corps will lift capacity restrictions, giving Lake Isabella and surrounding communities their lake back. The completion of the project will help the Kern River Valley with recreational activities this summer, boosting the local economy.