Masters Thesis

Lake Isabella Dam: an analysis of options

The 59-year-old Lake Isabella Dam has been deemed one of the most at-risk-of-failure dams in the nation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. If failure of the dam occurred; water, boulders, and debris would bombard the City of Bakersfield causing millions of dollars in destruction. The long process of evaluating the dam for deficiencies has been started by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. There are a three main concerns associated with the Lake Isabella Dam that have placed it at the top of the list: 1) the dam is in danger of eroding internally, 2) water could flow over its spillway in extreme flood season, and 3) an active fault capable of producing a strong earthquake sits beneath the dam. Issues ranging from poor planning, years of negligence, and a continuous lack of funding for maintenance have led to the decrepit state of the Lake Isabella Dam. It has taken years for problems to manifest and they will take years to address. The plan that is chosen for revitalizing the Lake Isabella Dam will be a long-term commitment for the citizens of Kern County. Countless resources will be poured in to the project and the safety and wellbeing of local citizens will depend upon its success. This study takes on a local perspective and the first step in ensuring that the million-dollar investment is the best possible. A solution must contain: 1) a relatively low cost or repair, 2) a sustainable plan for routine maintenance, and 3) result in the safest dam possible. The alternative to address the major flaws in the dam, and overtime take measures to reduce the overall risk of failure provides all three. Kern County residents find themselves in a groundbreaking position. They have been given the opportunity to influence their own future, safety, and infrastructure policy. The restoration option for the Lake Isabella Dam will improve the quality of life for citizens. In the long-term citizens will continue to enjoy the economic benefits the dam provides and an increased sense of safety and security.

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