RANCHO SANTA FE — The Rancho Santa Fe Irrigation District’s Joint Facilities Advisory Committee held a meeting on Nov. 14 at the irrigation district’s office to discuss the current status of the Lake Hodges Dam, the progress of the Joint Facilities Capital Improvement Program and the current status of Joint Facilities operations.
Santa Fe Irrigation District General Manager Albert Lau made a verbal presentation on the status of the Lake Hodges Dam. He explained that the water stored in Lake Hodges is jointly owned by the Santa Fe Irrigation District, the San Dieguito Water District and the city of San Diego. The dam itself is owned and administered by the City of San Diego.
Lake Hodges is currently at 40% capacity of its maximum 30,251 acre feet, putting it under 13,000 acre feet. Lau expects the capacity to stay reduced for the next decade. San Diego is working on a near-term fix to make sure capacity does not continue to decrease.
In the case of additions to the reservoir, like rain, water must be either removed or released from the lake to maintain the dam’s integrity, as the dam was built in 1918 and thus, does not conform to current seismic standards.
In the case of a leak or breakage, there is a danger present, as several structures are currently located within the dam’s flood zone. An evaluation of the dam’s structural integrity is expected to be a time-consuming process.
Engineering Services Manager Bill Hunter took over for the next presentation, in which he detailed the budget and progress of several projects. Said budget was $7.57 million for projects like the removal of solid matter from the San Dieguito reservoir, making seismic improvements to two facility structures built in the 1960s, replacing the roof on the Badger Administration Building, replacing valves at the Cielo Pump Station that were corroded by debris from the 2007 Witch Creek fire that landed in Lake Hodges, and repairing the concrete in the Badger Administration Building’s filters (the last of which will take up to three years).
Water Treatment Plant Manager Tim Bailey led a presentation on the presence of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs) — a chemical used as an industrial surfactant — in local water. He explained that PFAs (which were invented in the 1930s and manufactured from the 1940s to the 1990s) tend to concentrate in southern California, and that the EPA issued a health advisory regarding PFAs in quantities of 70 parts per trillion (ppt).
However, there are currently no PFAs in Rancho Santa Fe water sources or distribution systems; PFAs also tend to be groundwater contaminants. More tests will be conducted for PFAs in 2023.
Finally, Bailey announced that the district’s water treatment plant can now continue to function in the event of a power outage — using emergency power drawn from generators — and still maintain treatment standards with no service interruptions during an outage.
The next Join Facilities Advisory Committee is currently scheduled for 9 a.m. Feb. 13, 2020 at the Santa Fe Irrigation District. This meeting’s agenda can be accessed on its website at sfidwater.org.
Editors Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Lake Hodges is owned by the San Diego County Water Authority. An earlier version also incorrectly stated that the dam must be rebuilt completely to be structurally compliant for current seismic standards. The City of San Diego is still evaluating the dam’s integrity and how it could possibly still be reinforced. The Coast News Group regrets the errors.
Alex Wehrung covers Rancho Santa Fe and theatre-related news in North County. He previously reported for The Daily Nexus in Santa Barbara, CA and the Escondido Times-Advocate in Escondido, CA.