With California mired in a severe, four-year drought, it might seem odd that there's dam demolition underway. But that's exactly what's happening at a 94-year-old dam near Monterey, and it's being done to remove a seismic risk and to aid an endangered fish.
Built in 1921, the sediment-filled San Clemente Dam on the Carmel River was declared earthquake unsafe in 1991 by the state's agency for dam safety and hasn't been anywhere near its capacity in more than a decade. The dam's owner, California American Water (CAW), a unit of utility American Water, was ordered by the regulator to make the dam safe from a large earthquake.
CAW originally proposed spending about $55 million to buttress the 106-foot-tall dam in order to protect the 1,500 homes and buildings downstream. Through a public-private partnership, the investor-owned utility came up with an alternative plan to resolve the safety issue: an $83 million removal of the aging dam and restoration of the Carmel River's fish and ecological habitat.