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NO SLIP-SLIDIN' AWAY; CASITAS DAM TO GET $42 MILLION UPGRADE.

Byline: Don Holland Daily News Staff Writer

Forty truckloads of dirt a day will soon be hauled to Lake Casitas as part of a $42 million project to strengthen the 40-year-old earthen dam against collapse during a major earthquake.

While officials stress that Casitas Dam is safe in the meantime, it likely could not withstand the vibrations of a magnitude 7 earthquake, so it is being improved.

``The project is needed to bring the dam up to current earthquake standards, much like the program to bring bridges up to standards in California,'' said Bill Pennington, a civil engineer and project manager for the federal Bureau of Reclamation.

Work crews will dig a massive trench at the rear foot of the dam and then haul in thousands of tons of soil to support the structure. The top of the dam will be widened from 40 to 110 feet. The project, the most extensive work on the dam since its construction was completed in 1959, is scheduled to be done by December 2000.

Camping, fishing and boating will continue as usual because those activities are centered at the lake's north shore, about five miles from the dam, said Doug Ralph, manager of park services at Casitas Lake. Fishing normally is banned by the main pump tower and in the after-bay.

``There shouldn't be any impacts on recreation, as far as I know,'' said Ralph, noting the lake typically draws 1 million visitors a year.

However, Vista Point, a popular scenic spot near the dam, will be closed during construction.

As a precaution, officials are installing eight sirens along Coyote Creek and the Ventura River to warn residents in the unlikely event of a dam break before the reinforcement is completed.

Only a few residents have expressed fear of a breach in the dam, according to Pennington. More are concerned about truck traffic and noise from the heavy equipment that will be arriving in early June at the south end of the lake.

Soil used to strengthen the dam will be excavated from remote locations two miles upstream. Pennington said workers plan to leave as many trees as possible in excavation areas and restore the landscape.

With a capacity of 252,000 acre-feet of water, Casitas Lake is owned by the federal government and serves customers of the Casitas Municipal Water District.

CAPTION(S):

photo, 2 maps

PHOTO (1 -- color) Boating and fishing will continue at Lake Casitas, with a ban only at usual spots such as this, while the dam is being reinforced.

Joe Binoya/Special to the Daily News

Map: (1) Lake Casitas

(2) Dam repairs

A $42 million repair project is under way to strengthen Lake Casitas Dam against a major earthquake. While recreational uses of the lake will not be affected, Vista Point, a popular scenic spot, will be temporarily closed.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 31, 1999
Words:472
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