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DIAMOND VALLEY LAKE RESERVOIR DEDICATED PROJECT DOUBLES REGION'S STORAGE CAPACITY.

Byline: Andrew Silva Staff Writer

In 1913, as water from 233 miles away poured down a cascade for the first time toward growing Los Angeles, project mastermind William Mulholland said simply: ``There it is: Take it.''

In that tradition of getting water to arid, thirsty Southern California, state and water agency officials on Saturday dedicated the $2.2 billion Diamond Valley Lake Reservoir, a 4,500-acre holding tank that will nearly double this region's drinking water storage capacity.

``This is a day of big ideas and big dreams, the kind of ideas California has always been known for,'' said master of ceremonies Huell Howser, the host of PBS's ``California Gold.''

The invitation-only ceremony drew an estimated 4,000 people who packed bleachers and chairs under a warm blue sky for 90 minutes of speeches.

About 12,000 tickets for a public open house next weekend are gone.

Near the end of the ceremony, one of the engineers spoke into a walkie- talkie and, seven minutes and 18 seconds later, 16,000 gallons per second roared out of two ports on the tower, followed a minute later by water through two more ports, as fireworks exploded above.

``Years from now we will be able to tell our children and grandchildren we were here,'' Howser said. ``This is equal to old Mr. Mulholland when he opened that gate.''

The lake - which already holds 100,000 acre-feet of water brought hundreds of miles from the north through the State Water Project and hundreds of miles from the east through the Colorado River Aqueduct - will double Southern California's storage capacity for water, providing insurance against drought or earthquake.

An acre-foot is 326,000 gallons or about the amount of water used by two families in a year.

When full in two or three years, the lake will hold 800,000 acre-feet or 260 billion gallons, and provide a six-month supply of water if needed. That's more than Lake Havasu on the Colorado River, and nearly as much as all other reservoirs in Southern California combined.

Boating, fishing, hiking and bicycling will eventually be provided around the 4,500-acre lake.

For the 200 engineers and designers, more than 300 construction managers and as many as 2,000 workers at a time, the project represents 15 years of planning and four years of round-the-clock construction with some of the largest earth-movers in the world.

Project Manager Dennis Majors, 54, was a virtual celebrity after the ceremony, as people crowded around, offering congratulations, asking him to pose for photos, and looking in awe at the water roaring out of the 270-foot tower.

``It looks pretty good, doesn't it?'' he asked a well-wisher.

He is most proud of what the reservoir will mean to Southern California in the generations to come, as it improves the flexibility of the Metropolitan Water District in storing and delivering water.

``It's a little sad it's over,'' he said. ``When you're on something for 12 years, it's part of you. What makes me happy is how it will be used.''

The lake is essentially a huge bathtub, created by the mountains surrounding the Domenigoni and Diamond valleys, and three dams that comprise the largest earth-fill project in U.S. history.

--The west dam is 2,000 feet wide at its base, 285 feet high, and 1.6 miles long.

--The east dam is 185 feet high and 2.1 miles long.

--The saddle dam on the north is 130 feet high and a half-mile long.

--The dams were built with 110 million cubic yards of earth and rock that were excavated from the valleys. No material was imported.

--The lake is about 4.5 miles long by 2 miles wide and will average 200 feet deep.

--Water from the canals is first poured into a 35-acre, 163-million- gallon forebay, which resembles a giant swimming pool sitting below the west dam, before it flows into the pump house and then into the lake.

--The Hiram W. Wadsworth Pumping Station features 12 6,000-horsepower pumps for moving water from the forebay to the intake-outlet tower.

Wadsworth was the mayor of Pasadena who led the effort to create the Metropolitan Water District in 1928, the giant water wholesaler that serves 16 million people in Southern California and built the project with bonds.

History's intersection with the future was one of the main themes of the speakers. Mammoths, giant sloths, camels and mastodons roamed the once-lush valleys before going extinct 10,000 years ago.

American Indians called the region home for thousands of years, followed by settlers and farmers.

Scientists contracted from the San Bernardino County Museum uncovered thousands of Ice Age fossils during the projects, including the largest mastodons found in the western United States.

Several elected officials said they already have $11 million - and will consider legislation for more money - to build a museum near the lake to house the tusks, jaws and skulls, some of which were on display beneath a tent at the ceremony.

Paleontologist Eric Scott of the San Bernardino museum said there were equal parts of relief and pride now that the digging is over. Ahead are several years of work trying to figure what the gold mine of old bones says about the past.

``Now we can start the serious stuff and find out what really was going on,'' he said.

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Photo: Water pours into Diamond Valley Lake during an invitation-only dedication ceremony.

David Creamer/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 19, 2000
Words:910
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