Dam Replacement

Lake Hodges Dam is now 104 years old!

San Diego’s dams are among the oldest in the state and nation.  During the1880s through 1940s, the San Diego region was a world “hotbed” for design and construction of dams and reservoirs. The reasons have to do with the climate, the topography, and the history of European settlement.

Lake Hodges Dam is now 104 years old!!  For comparison, the average age of dams in the US is 57 years. The average of California’s dams is 70 years and the average of San Diego’s dams is 87 years.

State officials rate Lake Hodges Dam as “poor” condition, and it is arguably in the worst condition in the state.  According to the Union-Tribune, it is slated for replacement with a new $150 million compacted concrete dam to be located 100 feet downstream from the existing dam.

Because of concern for potential dam failure, state officials in 2019 mandated that the water level be kept 20 feet below full, reducing the storage capacity of the reservoir by 17,000 acre-feet, or to a maximum of 44% capacity.  Regular releases or transfers of water from the reservoir are required to maintain the reduced reservoir level.  These releases may represent a loss of water supply. A replacement dam will return the reservoir to its full capacity, conserving this critical resource and making more water available for communities in the San Diego Region. 

The Lake Hodges Dam Replacement Project is currently in the preliminary planning phase.  It is anticipated by the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department that the design will begin 3-4 years after the planning phase is complete. They currently anticipate the dam replacement project will take about 10-15 years to complete from planning to final project closeout.

In November 2021, President Biden signed the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill into law which included $3 billion for increased funding for Dam Safety Programs.  It is hoped that these funds can be used to accelerate the current timeline to replace Lake Hodges Dam.  Projects competing for limited funding benefit from broad community support.  The Friends of Lake Hodges intends to assist in providing support for the City’s dam replacement efforts.