Giant new Folsom Dam floodgates close 600 miles of road
The billion-dollar project at Folsom Dam, funded mostly by federal taxpayers, is intended to double the dam’s flood-protection rating to shield the Sacramento region from the biggest storms on the American River. In a drought year as bad as this one, it may be hard to imagine the need for this capacity. But it hasn’t been that long since the current dam’s limits were revealed. In 1986, the reservoir overfilled and flood-control officials were briefly forced to release more water than downstream levees were rated to withstand. Sacramento narrowly avoided disaster.
Although construction has been underway since 2008, most of the work has gone unnoticed except to residents near the project site and regular visitors to the lake. The delivery of the gates will change that, because it will require extended road closures throughout the region.
There are six main gates in the new spillway, designed to release water earlier and faster during a flood. Each assembled steel gate is about 40 feet long, 45 feet tall and 30 feet wide.
Imagine 12 school buses strapped together in a cube, three wide and four high, and you begin to get an idea of the challenges involved in transporting each gate.
“It’ll be pretty interesting, pretty spectacular, for them to be moving something this large down from Oregon,” said Rick Johnson, executive director of the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, which is funding the local share of the project through property taxes. “I anticipate it’ll be similar logistics to moving the space shuttle.”
The primary contractor on this phase of the spillway project is Granite Construction Co. of Watsonville, which holds a $125 million contract from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build the gate-control structure. This massive structure is equivalent to building a whole new dam. It is as tall as the Statue of Liberty and requires enough steel to build two-and-a-half Eiffel Towers.
The steel gates were fabricated at ...