2009 – Water, Always a Premium in Southern California, Brings Back another Marquee Project, San Vicente Dam Raise

Chi Fai Wan, Tom Haid, Jim McClain, Kelly Rodgers

The dams market in California is alive again with phenomenal growth driven by an increasing need for storage to hedge against ongoing water scarcity due to climate change and a growing demand for reliable water supplies driven by population and economic needs. To meet the region’s water supply needs the San Diego County Water Authority has launched the Emergency Storage Project (ESP), an extensive program to create a system of reservoirs, interconnected pipelines and pumping stations to provide more flexibility for water deliveries to the San Diego region, especially in the event of an emergency, such as a devastating earthquake. The Water Authority has planned for water needs in an extended drought by creating the Carryover Storage Project (CSP), which provides additional storage to capture water in wet periods for use in dry periods.

Up to 90 percent of the region’s water supply is imported by pipelines travelling hundreds of kilometres across earthquake fault lines from Northern California and the Colorado River. The major component of the fourth and final phase of the ESP is the San Vicente Dam Raise. The project includes raising the existing dam by 35 m to increase the reservoir and provide an additional 187 million m3 of water storage for the region. This will be the largest dam raise in the United States and the largest roller compacted concrete dam raise in the world. The Water Authority has contracted with Parsons/Black & Veatch Joint Venture to provide construction management services for this vital project. The dam raise is another one of the marquee water supply dams and reservoir projects that the Joint Venture members have been involved in Southern California, after successful completion of the Diamond Valley Lake for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Olivenhain Dam for Water Authority.

This paper presents a brief description of the San Vicente Dam Raise, the underlying water shortage and the emergency backup needs, and the need for carryover storage. The dam raise design has been previously presented in numerous papers and publications. Therefore, following an overview and general project description, this paper focuses on the critical role that effective construction management plays in implementation of a dam construction project of this size and complexity. Key construction management activities that are discussed in the paper include engineering design constructability reviews, independent cost estimation and scheduling, on-site laboratory management and quality control, and contractor oversight. The construction manager will be involved in this project through final design and construction over a five-year period.

Keywords: Water Scarcity, San Diego County Water Authority, Emergency Storage Project, San Vicente Dam Raise, Roller-Compacted-Concrete (RCC), Construction Management, Climate Change.

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