Before the ceremony former Tulare County Supervisor Mike Ennis said he was glad Congressman Kevin McCarthy was going to be at the Phase 2 groundbreaking for the Tule River Spillway enlargement at Schafer Dam and Success Lake, on Friday.
"This has been such a struggle for years,” Ennis said. "The Success Lake/Richard Schafer Dam had so many obstacles through the years. When the Corps thought the dam might be liquified, they were concerned. So they drilled 80 holes in the dam, and millions of dollars later the dam is fine. We are not on a fault line, no concerns there.
“But the real plus is for public safety. The spillway will be raised 10 feet securing flood control and there will be more water storage so farmers will have more irrigation."
Col. Chad Caldwell, Commander of the United States Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District welcomed everyone on a beautiful day, and said USACE was fortunate to have the support of the many dignitaries present.
Among the dignitaries he introduced were Kevin McCarthy, who represents the 23rd district, 21st District Congressman David Valadao, USACE South Pacific Division Commander Col. Antoinette Gant, District 5 Tulare County Supervisor Dennis Townsend, Tule River Improvement Joint Powers Authority chair Mark Unruh, Michels Construction vice president Mark Hutter, State Senator Shannon Groves, as well as various Water Masters from the area. He also gave a special recognition to Michael Tharp, a family member of Richard L. Schafer's, who the dam is named after.
The Porterville Military Academy Color Guard presented the colors for the pledge of Allegiance after which Tulare County Sheriff's Office Chaplain Ken Mabon gave the invocation.
"Thank you for coming here today," he said to everyone as he blessed the new facility. He spoke about how much joy and happiness the lake and dam bring to families for recreation.
"Paired with Phase 1, today is a momentous occasion that marks the beginning of the end of the work to repair and raise Schafer Dam. Since first representing Tulare County in 2013, fixing Schafer Dam has been a top priority of mine," McCarthy said. "I’ve had countless meetings with Army Corps officials to press them to bring this project to fruition expeditiously, and today’s groundbreaking ceremony is a huge milestone for our community."
McCarthy spoke about the safety of the Dam and the spillway and the improvement completed in February, saying the enlargement will increase the lake's storage by 23,000 acre feet. He thanked the Corps for the job they're doing. “This is not the end, but the beginning of the end.
When you think about why Mr. Schafer worked so hard on this project, it was to protect the people down below. There will be recreation every day, it will be safer, more storage for water.”
Valadao spoke about water needs and the wells in the Central Valley, and the challenges with water. He spoke about how he always likes to go to Washington and highlight the agricultural production in the Valley — oranges, pistachios, milk, and other products.
He said it's important to make the connection between the drought, the food and the water supply.
Both Unruh and Hutter spoke about the Tule River Spillway Enlargement during the ceremony, and remarked how beneficial it will be to the communities for flood control, and Hutter talked about how excited Michels was to work on the project. He said Michels has many projects throughout California. He thanked the Michels family and the company's employees.
The enlargement of the Tule River Spillway has been a high priority project and it will help with climate resilient infrastructure.
Townsend said it was really a blessing to take part in the ceremony and it was such a milestone. He spoke of his friendship and relationship with Richard Schafer, and said, "We are literally standing on the shoulders of the people who have been working on this project for three decades. There has been a need for water storage for years.”
“It's always great when the USACE receives funding to work on projects to benefit the local community,” Gant said. "Right now people look at where we are in this drought, but at some point there will be a need for the capacity to hold more water. All in all we have done our job to make sure these communities are safe, and we are looking forward to completing phase two.”
Townsend said it was exciting the project after three decades of planning was finally coming to fruition. And when completed it will directly benefit all the water users below the dam through water recharge, flood control, and agricultural and domestic water use, Townsend said.
"I'm proud to be a part of this through the TC Board of Supervisors, SREP and TRIJPA," he said.
Phase I of the project consisted of the re-routing of the roadway around the spillway. Phase II consists of the actual enlargement of the spillway and is scheduled to be completed in 2024.