Tahoe City Dam turns 100 years old

Margaret Moran
A bronze plaque commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Lake Tahoe Dam was unveiled Friday. It will be mounted adjacent to the dam, which can be seen in the background.
Margaret Moran / | Sierra Sun

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — World War I, Prohibition and Franklin Roosevelt’s first election are just a few historic events that happened after one of Lake Tahoe’s most important features was built a century ago.

Completed in fall 1913, the Lake Tahoe Dam in Tahoe City was part of the Newlands Project designed to provide irrigation water from the Truckee and Carson rivers for cropland in the Lahontan Valley.

“For a century this dam has been critical in providing water supply for so many important uses in the Tahoe and Truckee basin — agriculture, recreation, fish and wildlife — and the things most important to Truckee Meadows Water Authority — municipal water supply and hydroelectric generation,” said Mark Foree, general manager of the Truckee Meadows Water Authority. “… It’s just an outstanding source of supply for both in terms of quantity and quality.”

Foree, along with roughly 100 officials and residents, gathered Friday in Tahoe City — with the 109-foot-long, 18-foot-high dam in the background — to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

The concrete dam controls the top 6 feet of Lake Tahoe, creating a reservoir more than 700,000-acre feet in capacity and regulating outflows into the Truckee River. The federal Bureau of Reclamation operates and maintains the dam today.

Government officials Friday presented several certificates to the Bureau of Reclamation, recognizing its efforts to fulfill water demands of downstream users, and to the dam itself.

“Resolved by assembly member Brian Dahle that Lake Tahoe Dam be commended for 100 years of exemplary and necessary service to the countless homes and business, without which could not thrive, and that it be preserved, so it may continue to serve the state of California,” said Cheri Fry, Dahle’s legislative director, reading from a framed resolution.

Seismic stability upgrades in July 1987 and additional improvements in 2006 have helped ensure the dam’s preservation.

“We have to be concerned now about things such as climate change (and) growing populations that rely on the water supply systems that we have in place, many of which were built for far less people and to meet the demands of far less needs,” said Pablo Arroyave, deputy regional director for Reclamation’s Mid-Pacific Region.

Moving forward, future success, much like past successes, will depend on partnerships, he said.

“I look at the last 100 years, and I think about what are things going to look like when we celebrate the 200th year anniversary of the Lake Tahoe Dam, and we will,” Arroyave said. “It will still be here. I am confident, and it will be a keystone to the communities that rely on the dam.”

The dam ceremony kicked off celebrations for the 150th anniversary of Tahoe City and 75th anniversary of the Tahoe City Public Utility District that took place over Labor Day weekend.

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