Whittier Narrows Dam performed as designed during January rains

Last month, the entire State was drenched in what many perceived was endless days of rain. Here in the City of Pico Rivera, where we received approximately half an inch to two inches of rain with each passing storm, many watchful eyes were on the Whittier Narrows Dam, as water accumulated behind the dam and the San Gabriel River swelled with discharged water. But was it all concerning? Many alarmed residents called Pico Rivera City Hall for updates or took to social media, where misinformation about the Dam’s integrity was spreading. However, the Dam performed as designed, and there was no concern about Dam failure by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and City Officials.

The recent storms highlighted the commitment between the City of Pico Rivera and USACE in ensuring citizens have the most current information.

“We are aware that residents continue to be concerned about the Whittier Narrows Dam,” said City Manager Steve Carmona. “Our City contacts continue to work with contacts at the US Army Corps of Engineers to bring our residents the most current and factual updates as quickly as they become available. Fortunately, those updates have been encouraging and reassuring,” said Carmona.

“Our partnership with the City of Pico Rivera is critical in communicating with the residents,” said Aaron Smith, Senior Advisor, Whittier Narrows Dam Safety Project. “We’re working in close coordination with the City to provide up-to-date information so residents understand the situation and can make informed decisions for their families based on the latest information,” Smith said.

In an update provided by USACE, the Whittier Narrows Dam is working as intended, with no issues or concerns forecasted. The reservoir was nowhere near capacity, refuting a false Social Media claim stating the reservoir was already near capacity. The spillway gates were in proper working order and worked as designed. That’s due in part to an improvement that was made in 2022 as part of the Whittier Narrows Dam Safety Project. Despite the heavy rain in and around the Whittier Narrows Dam, the water level remained well below gate activation, and the Dam overall performed as it was designed over 7 decades ago. Much of the accumulated storm-water was safely redirected to the Pacific Ocean.

Despite the weather conditions, the Whittier Narrows Dam Safety Project carries on with an anticipated completion date of 2026. The project will address several areas of improvement as identified by USACE, including internal erosion of the foundation and building of a new compacted concrete filler to prevent overflowing at the top of the dam. Additional updates regarding the Whittier Narrows Dam Safety Project will be provided to residents as the project progresses.

Residents are reminded that any information regarding this project, or the current status of the Dam, including any advisories and resident updates, should come directly from the City of Pico Rivera and/or the US Army Corps of Engineers. Immediate information will be disseminated via the City’s Social Media platforms on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. All other information will be published in the Profile, or other means of communication.

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