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Success Lake: Two men credited with its existence today
After the Ohio River’s “Great Flood of 1937” in Louisville, Ky. — one that geological evidence suggests outdid any previous flood — forcing 175,000 residents to flee when it submerged 70 percent of the city and leaving damage of what would be $3.3 billion in current dollars — the Federal Government petitioned for a feasible control program.
That event is credited for beginning what would eventually lead to the construction of Success Dam east of Porterville. Following is a timeline of the dam from its initial planning to today.
1944 to 1956 — The petition was authorized by the U.S. Congress in 1944 but years of complacency followed.
1955-56 — Jack Chrisman, Visalia, and William Alexander, Porterville, convince Congress to appropriate funds and begin building Kaweah and Success Lakes.
1958 — Appropriations, and construction order. Construction of the Success Lake project began in 1958 at an initial cost of an approximate $14.3 million, with an authorized purpose of flood control, irrigation and water conservation under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
1960 — In February, Tule River flow halted work on Success Dam twice within seven days as water flowed in at 1,600 and 650 second feet (s.f.) on the 9th and 2nd of the month.
1961 — Local reservoir dam and lake project completed.
1962 — April 19. Porterville City Council voted 4 to 7 to name the reservoir “Lake Porterville” — opposed by “considerable correspondence,” the Lindsay Chamber of Commerce and the Springville Chamber of Commerce. Porterville Mayor Jack Letsinger fights for the Lake Porterville name, but was told, after his second letter to Congress, by Congressman Harlan Hagan that “The lake is already named and it is not fair to name it after Porterville when so many in the county contributed to its success.”
That same month, Porterville Chamber of Commerce votes 10-2 for “Success Lake.”
July 31 — Tulare County Board of Supervisors vote to officially name “Lake Success” — a motion carried 3-0, with two superintendents, Carl Booth of Dinuba and John R. Longley of Porterville who had to leave early for Sacramento.
1963 — April 15. Storage hits new record, with the reservoir topping 30,000 acre feet for the first time. Lake held at 30,064 acre feet, with the release of water going out at a 33 s.f. rate.
April 30 — Lake passes half-way mark at 11:30 p.m., measuring 41,950 acre feet at midnight. Half-way mark is 41,931 acre feet.
June 1 — Lake officials report it is the first day that all 100 campsites are filled. They also said there were 200-plus boats on the water. Two accidents are also reported, including a boat that sank during ramping due to rough water. Number of registered boats reach 1,700.
June 3 — A contest guessing the lake’s pool size at its peak on June 1 is won by Virgin Dunlap, who guessed exactly with 61,388 acre feet. Second place, and a $15 U.S. Savings Bond, went to 11-year-old Tom Burch, a sixth-grader from Roche Elementary.
June 17 — Lake peaks at 62,865 acre feet and level more than 25 feet higher than same day one year prior. The lake surface is measured at 1,863 acres.
Dec. 19 — After the Baldwin Hills dam disaster, local dams to be inspected — in spite of assurance by Lt. COl. Teagle of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
1964 — March 12. Success Navy boat christened and launched. Boat is 27-foot long, twin engine, twin screw, surplus-working boat.
Aug. 3 — Tule flow into the lake is zero. Prior lowest flows were reported October 3-5 of
1963 when the flow ran 4 s.f., 11 s.f. and 21 s.f., respectively.
1965 — Nov. 2. Boats left high and almost dry by receding levels as an aerial survey is completed. Water at minimum recreation pool level.
1967 — May 23. A 104-degree day poses continuing flood threats. The warming thread, melting snow at high elevations, producing a water inflow of 1,389 s.f., resulted in a 5-foot tall sand bag barrier erected across the dam spillway, increasing the dam’s capacity from 85,440 acre ft. to 95,440 acre ft.
June 10 — Lake officials report flood threat has passed, water diverted to lake-area, flood-control cells, resulting in $6.5 million agriculture loss.
1989 — Success Lake gets a hydroelectric power plant — owned and operated by the Lower Tule Irrigation District — producing 1,400 kilowatts of electricity per hour.
2004 — Storage in dam is limited because of concerns raised over the safety of the dam.
2008 — Last season for Success Lake Marina.
2009 — Floating Marina moved to Pine Flat Lake.
2011 — 50th anniversary of dam completion, no public recognition observed.
May 4, 2012 — Officials say fears over dam safety unfounded and allow storage to be incrased to maximum of 65,000 acre feet.
2012 — 50th anniversary of dam dedication. No ceremony currently planned.
July 6, 2012, 3 p.m. — Lake storage at 47,377 acre feet, water level 634.62 elevation and release 636 s.f.
* One cubic foot per second equals 450 gallons per minute — Dick Schafer, Success Lake water master, 1962 to present.