Last year, U.S. Congressional Representatives Grace Napolitano, and Linda Sanchez, announced that $384,900,000 had been secured through the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill to fund repairs on the Whittier Narrows Dam as part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Dam Safety and Seepage Program. Recently, President Joe Biden included additional funding to this urgent project, which at press time still needed to pass through the United States House of Representatives.
The Whittier Narrows Dam is a flood control and water conservation project completed in 1957 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. During seasons of heavy rain, the two rivers that surround the City of Pico Rivera, the San Gabriel River, and the Rio Hondo River flow into the Whittier Narrows Reservoir, preventing flooding of the two rivers and ultimately preventing neighborhoods from flooding in the City.
Over the past few years, the Dam’s structural integrity has been discussed as the Army Corps of Engineers prepared for the potential of a rare 10,000-year storm, a storm so severe that flooding would occur if the Dam wasn’t structurally prepared for the overflow from the two rivers that flow into the reservoir. Not only would the City of Pico Rivera be impacted by the potential Dam catastrophe, more than a dozen cities and communities downstream would be directly impacted should the Whittier Narrows Dam fail.
Since the potential danger has been recognized, local officials have been working hard to secure the funding necessary to make the appropriate repairs to the Dam. With the announcement made last July, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can move forward with their risk-management plan as it relates to the Dam.
“While a 10,000-year storm seems rare and unlikely to many, the fact remains it is a possibility and our local government officials are taking the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of not only our community but the other communities downstream,” said City Manager Steve Carmona.
The anticipated repairs include addressing internal erosion of the foundation and building a new compacted concrete filler to prevent overflowing at the top of the dam, amongst other repairs.
Construction-related projects are set to begin later this year, with major activities taking place next year. As a result of the construction, City facilities that are leased from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, such as the Pico Rivera Golf Course, and Streamland Park, will all be impacted by the project. City Officials are working to mitigate those impacts and will be announcing plans regarding those facilities in the coming months.
“We recognize the loss of recreational land as a result of this project,” said Carmona, “we are actively looking at other potential options to replace those sites, including working with the County of Los Angeles on possible land use options.”
City Officials have also launched an informational website regarding the Whittier Narrows Dam Project. This website will be updated as needed and contains local news stories, FAQs, and a section that provides local residents an opportunity to submit questions and concerns. The website can be viewed at wndamproject.org.