The clear sky was painted a vivid blue as a cool and gentle breeze swept through, creating the perfect setting for the Richard L. Schafer Dam Renaming Ceremony on Tuesday afternoon.
Shortly before 1:30 p.m., dignitaries from around Porterville and the surrounding areas gathered under the shade of large canopies to witness the renaming of Success Dam to the Richard L. Schafer Dam. The renaming of the dam was brought on by Congressman Kevin McCarthy, who was in attendance to speak in honor of Schafer.
In June of this year, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 2695, which was introduced to the House by McCarthy to rename Success Dam after Richard L. Schafer, the longtime Tule River Water Master. President Donald Trump signed the bill into law on August 9.
Richard L. Schafer, or “Dick” as some may call him, was born in South Dakota in 1925. He served in World War II as an infantryman in the Army. He received a degree in Civil Engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. He came to Porterville after joining an engineering firm in the area. In 1960, Schafer built his own company, R. L. Schafer and Associates, which still operates today.
Schafer spent 56 years as the Water Master on the Tule River, and is a well-known name among the water community. One of his most recent accomplishments is spearheading the enlargement of the Success Reservoir. Now, at 93-years-old with a birthday just weeks away, Schafer is still an active participant on many water boards and acts as a consultant for 13 different water management organizations. He also serves as Coordinator on the Tule Basin Water Quality Coalition and the Tule Sub-Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agencies.
The ceremony was opened by Colonel James Handura, Commander for the Sacramento District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who thanked everyone for attending and introduced the color guard for the ceremony.
“It is my privilege to serve as the host and the MC for today’s ceremony,” said Handura. “I would like to extend a special welcome to the Schafer family and Congressman Kevin McCarthy. It’s not often that we get the chance to rename a dam, and it’s also a special privilege to honor a man like Richard L. Schafer, who has given so much to the community and the nation. Please rise for the presentation of the colors.”
Three Porterville Military Academy cadets marched to the front of the crowd, one carrying the American flag, and presented the colors to the audience. After posting the flag, the cadets formally exited from the front, and returned to their positions near the back of the crowd. Handura led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance, before introducing Tulare County Supervisor for District 5, Dennis Townsend.
Townsend took the microphone and stated many years ago he had been employed by Schafer. Townsend had Schafer smiling in the background as he relayed a memory of Schafer scolding him for cutting his hair. Townsend then presented Schafer with a proclamation from the Board of Supervisors.
Next to speak in honor of Schafer was Walter Bricker, a board member with the Tule River Water Association. Bricker stated there could be no better person to name the dam after than Schafer, who has dedicated most of his life to water and water issues in the area.
“(Schafer) has worked for many clients up and down the Valley over a very long and successful career,” said Bricker. “But I believe the Tule River has always been closest to his heart. (Schafer) has been involved with the Tule River for nearly 60 years with his start on the river coinciding with the completion of the dam. Over those many years, he has been respected for his integrity and passion by all those he has worked with, and it has been that passion that has kept (Schafer) working full-time well into his 90’s.”
Last to speak in honor of Schafer was McCarthy. McCarthy stood up in front of the crowd and smiled, before he began to speak about Schafer and some of his accomplishments. McCarthy stated he and Schafer have conferred several times on water issues, and he always enjoyed and appreciated the patience Schafer took with him every time they spoke. McCarthy handed Schafer a framed original copy of the bill signed by Trump, before beginning a round of applause that had the entire crowd on their feet.
“We are hear to recognize a titan, and not just a titan for the community, but a titan for all of California when it comes to water,” said McCarthy.
Once the applause died out, Schafer took the microphone to say some words of gratitude.
“I am so pleased to see all of you,” said Schafer. “I am so glad that you are here. I thank you very much for taking the time to attend. This is indeed a honor. I really appreciate everything that you all have done because it’s not just me. It’s everybody. That’s what causes it all to come together.”