Last Thursday, the US Army Corps of Engineers announced that they would fully fund a $74 million project to increase water storage at Lake Success.
The project, which will raise and widen the dam’s spillway, will increase the lake’s storage capacity by 28,000 acre-feet – from 82,000 to 110,000 acre-feet.
The Lake Success project is also a major boon for the community of Porterville, which will benefit from greatly improved flood protection.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a statement:
“Full funding for the Success Reservoir Enlargement Project marks a massive win for the communities of Tulare County and the City of Porterville. Efforts to enlarge the dam have been years in the making, and after more than a decade of delays and studies, this is the start of a new era for the project — one that will finally see it to completion.”
The project was originally approved by Congress in 1999, with construction commencing in 2003. Two years later, construction halted due to safety concerns with earthquakes.
This February, Congress approved new funding for the Army Corps of Engineers which provided linchpin funding to complete the job.
Eric Limas, manager of the Lower Tule River Irrigation District, said another one of the factors that led to funding of the project was the fact it was “shovel ready.”
“They like to hear that when they’re allocating funds,” said Limas. “They want to see projects get done, and this is a project that is ready to go and had no opposition.”
Limas added local proponents of the project have been trying to secure funding for years, and he and other local leaders have made numerous trips to Washington D.C. for that purpose.
“Once this pool of money became available, luckily our project floated to the top of the final list that got approval,” said Limas.
Now after more than a decade of delay, the new funding announced Thursday will enable USACE to perform the necessary updated environmental studies, complete design work on the spillway and then construct the project.
The plan of the project is the same as it was in 2003: to widen and raise the Success Dam spillway ten feet and widen it another 165 feet (to 365 feet wide), allowing for the storage of up to another 28,000 acre feet of water. Raising and widening the spillway would increase maximum storage to 110,000 acre feet and take the top of the lake to within a foot of the Highway 190 bridge. Officials have said the bridge would not have to be raised, however.
“It takes the flood risk from a once-in-49-years event to a once-in-100-years even,” said Limas. “It doubles the flood protection for the City of Porterville and all the smaller communities along the Tule River.”
After such a long wait, Limas is one of many involved with the project who are looking forward to the benefits it will bring to the Porterville area and beyond.
“This is huge. It’s a really big deal. We’re talking about doubling flood protection, and it will help use manage our water more efficiently, which will help us with our groundwater situation,” he said. “On top of that, this project is fully funded, so it should minimize any cost sharing. The whole region should be really excited about this.”