img_3753-shasta-dam-low-resDateline: Living in Fear of Flood

Perhaps you’ve heard. California’s drought is over. Oh, sure, there are public officials who still deny it. And who could blame them? They’ve spent years counseling parsimony in water use. Some have even levied fines, cut flow to profligate households, and even managed to stigmatize clean cars and green lawns. But that gig is up.

We have water in excess now. Way in excess. Perhaps you’ve read about the floods in San José, California. Or maybe you’ve heard about the evacuation of Oroville, CA, after a dam there threatened to burst. Or maybe you’ve recently driven through the Sacramento Valley, where fields are doing their best lake impersonations. Here in Redding, my mother lives a mere few hundred yards from the mighty Sacramento River, California’s largest, and it’s nearly overflowing its banks.

The Firemen Haven't Used that Boat in Years

The Firemen Haven’t Used that Boat in Years

Fortunately for us, Franklin Roosevelt saw fit to have the river dammed, so we don’t have too much to fear from flooding. At least if the dams here are in better shape than in Oroville. Here, there are two dams upstream: the boringly utilitarian Keswick Dam, designed mostly for electricity generation; and the awesome Shasta Dam, built for flood control, recreation, and also electricity generation.

Given the rather stunning lack of museums, nightclubs, musical venues, and the like here, the dams are a rather popular spot. And even if there were more alternative diversions, Shasta Dam would still be worth a visit. The lake is beautiful, the scenery tranquil with pine-forested mountains rising up from the water, and eagles and hawks soar above it all. But it’s the dam itself that takes your breath away. It’s the eighth-tallest in the country, and holds the largest California reservoir. When completed, the dam was the second-tallest in the United States after Hoover, and was considered one of the greatest engineering feats of all time. And recently there’s an added bonus: actual water! Yes, the dam has filled up and now there’s honest-to-goodness water flow unlike the former bit of minor turbulence below the power house.

Compare the Water Level in the Video

Drought Starved Lake Shasta. Notice the Boat Ramp.

In fact, there’s been so much water flow, that I’ve become nervous about the prospect of my mother’s house flooding. The normally placid flow of water here has turned into an angry torrent. So we decided to visit and assess the risk of flooding ourselves. We made two visits, and I decided to document our findings on video, which you can see below.

What follows is obviously amateurish, but I hope this little video gives you some sense of our dam, rainfall, and local scenery.

Saludos!

 

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