Local dams ready for next series of rainstorms

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SAN DIEGO – A series of weekend storms pose a risk to the damaged Oroville Dam in Northern California, but San Diego officials say that local dams remain safe.

Officials gave reporters a tour of the dam at Lake Miramar Thursday, using the opportunity to underscore the safety of the city's water system.

The Miramar Dam is one of the oldest dams in the city. The earthen dam was built in 1962 to hold untreated water. It provides an emergency water supply for the city. The reservoir is currently about 80 percent full, but what happened in Oroville cannot happen here, according to Director of Public Utilities Halla Razak.

"We have all of these plans in place and the spillway is in good working condition and that is the case on all of our dams," Razak said. "So what happened in Oroville was one of those catastrophic failures that happened in the spillway, and often times many things happen on top of each other. But to guard against that, we make sure we inspect our dams and we do what we can to make sure they’re in good working condition."

The San Diego municipal water system uses nine dams to store water. The reservoirs are currently filled to just above 50 percent of their capacity, Razak said. Unlike Lake Oroville, which collects water from a large watershed area, San Diego reservoirs have little watershed and mainly store imported water purchased by the city.

"We monitor the water level at all times, and if there is more water here than we need, we either stop buying imported water or we move it to another facility," Razak said. "What we have here is substantially smaller, and we take good care of our dams, and they are the workhorses of our water system so we make sure they are in good working condition."

The city dam system goes through bi-weekly inspections where engineers look at structure and infrastructure -- even down to the pipes -- to make sure everything is in good working condition, Razak said.