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$14.3 millon investment overpays for itself
Built 51 years ago dedicated 50 years ago
It has been 50 years since Success Dam, initially costing $14.3 million, at Success Lake was dedicated — one year after completion.
The project was built primarily for flood control and irrigation.
That day, May 18, 1962, 300 people flocked to the dam for the dedication program which was visited by state and congressional officials — including Congressman Harlan Hagen, State Attorney General Stanley Mosk and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Major General William Cassidy.
The ceremony included the playing of the National Anthem by an orange-and-green clad Porterville Panther Band, under the direction of Frank “Buck” Shaffer; an invocation by Rev. William Ames of the Pixley Missionary Baptist Church; and Susan Crumly, 1961 Miss Tulare County, who helped the cannon crew of the Confederacy of Breakfast Lions fire a one-gun salute to complete the dedication. The dedication occurred during Porterville’s Centennial observance.
On that day, Cassidy praised the newly-constructed flood control units as a “far sighted conservation effort significant of the kind of planning that will enable California to face population growth without fear.”
Cassidy also cited President John Kennedy’s policy that all available water should be diversified and used for irrigation, conservation and recreation.
“[That] means you now can develop your farms without fear and can anticipate more jobs, wealth, enterprise and better living for yourselves and your children,” Cassidy said in 1962.“The rewards will be great and permanent.”
The lake was a result of local officials prompting that the 1944 Flood Control Act be put into action, ending years of complacency.
“The 1955-56 years and flood prompted two local men, William Alexander of Porterville and Jack Chrisman of Visalia into being quite influential and instrumental in convincing Congress to appropriate money to the Lake Kaweah and Success project,” said Dick Schafer, water master of Success Lake since 1962 and secretary of the Tule River Association.
“Success Lake was started because of those two men.”
Today, the lake, at 393 square miles, and with a water storage capacity of 82,500 acre-feet, spreads across 2,450 acres and has 30 miles of shoreline. It continues to provide protection to Porterville and several other communities, and continues to reduce flood damage to 260,000 acres of crop land.
Success Dam, which is fed by two forks of the Tule River, has an annual flow, based on records from 1904 to 1980, of 137,400 acre feet. The mean daily flow for the same time period is listed as 190 s.f., with a maximum inflow of 40,000 s.f. recorded on Dec. 6, 1966.
The dam’s spillway is located in the dam’s saddle, near the north abutment. It has a crest of 200 ft. and has a spillway design flood pool of 34.3 ft. at its head.
The main dam’s elevation at the top of the dam sits at the 691.5 ft. level, and has a crest that is 3,404 ft. in length and 22.5 ft. wide.
After dirt was removed — a total excavation of 490,000 cu ft. — a 3.5 miles-long gross pool was created to hold a storage capacity of 82,300 ac. ft. of water.
The lake has not always filled, said Calvin Foster, area manager, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, but more than once water has flowed over the spillway on the north side of the dam. Once, sandbags were used to increase storage behind the dam in a wet year.
“In addition to providing downstream flood protection during several major flood events over the past 50 years, the dam has allowed for the storage of irrigation water benefiting one of the richest agricultural regions in the nation,” Foster said.
“Success Lake provides excellent recreational opportunities such as camping, picnicking, waterskiing, wake boarding, fishing and equestrian trails in the Wildlife Management Area. A study using 2006 visitation numbers showed visitors spent $6.72 million within 30 miles of Success Lake based on 292,310 visits. It is great to have this type of facility in our own backyard,” added Foster.
Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1045. Follow her on Twitter @Avila_recorder.