Planting the seeds of progress

By Clayton Huckaby
Kern Valley Sun

Photo by Clayton Huckaby / Kern Valley Sun:
Pictured above, equipment to dig a well can be seen at the site along Highway 178.

The Isabella Lake Dam project, which is being conducted by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), has turned out to be a multiple year project and there remains approximately five years to go before the entire project is complete. One of the reasons this has been such a long road is because of the planning and damage mitigation stages that must be completed before any real repairs can begin.

One damage mitigation project USACE is required to undertake is replanting any plants that may be destroyed during the dam project. Rick Brown, senior public affairs specialist for the USACE Sacramento District, explained that USACE has acquired two plots equaling approximately 150 acres of United States Forest Service land to act as the area for replanting. One of these areas, as many residents probably have seen, is along Highway 178 in between the KOA and the cement plant. The other area is up Fay Ranch Road near Sprague Ranch.

Brown continued explaining that the replanting effort will essentially be one for one. Any bush, any tree destroyed during the project will be replanted on the plots of land. In order to ensure the survival of these plants, USACE has begun to dig wells to ensure that the plants have enough water to grow and thrive. According to Brown, the cost of this individual project is not available; however, the entire cost of the Isabella Dam project is estimated at $600,000,000. This is from the beginning of planning through the current contracting process and through the repair process.
Brown also explained that the dam project is well underway. Currently, USACE is accepting bids from contractors and expects to have the contractors for the project chosen by September. Brown continued explaining that it is likely the repair process will not actually begin until the end of this year or very early next year. Furthermore, the dam project will take approximately four years to complete after that with the project expected to end in 2022.

Brown did explain that the dam is not the only thing being restored in this project. According to Brown, once the dam has been repaired, USACE will also be restoring the Main Dam campground. The Kern Valley Sun will continue to follow any updates about the dam project and keep the community updated in the future.

If you have any questions about the Isabella Lake dam project you would like the Kern Valley Sun to investigate, please email