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Sugar Pine Dam and Reservoir, the current primary dam of the Auburn-Folsom South Unit of the CVP
The Central Valley Project (CVP) is a United States Bureau of Reclamation federal water project in the U.S.marker state of Californiamarker. The project supplies irrigation and municipal water, produces hydropower, and provides flood control and recreation on its many large reservoirs. Twenty dams and reservoirs, 11 hydroelectric power plants, and of canals and aqueducts make up the project, which is separated into eight divisions and ten distinct units. Nine million acre feet of water are managed by the CVP, while 7 million acre feet are delivered annually.

Erratic rainfall patterns in the Central Valleymarker of California, a predominantly agricultural area, have always posed major problems for crops grown in the valley, which receives most of its rainfall from the north. A water storage and management project was needed to control water flows and distribute Northern California water evenly among the north and central parts of the state. The Central Valley Project was created in 1933 for this purpose. In the years following, water delivery to this area turned what was previously a semi-arid desert into productive farmland. California agriculture and related industries directly account for 7% of the gross state product for which the CVP supplied water for about half. In recent years, however, regulatory decisions based on the Endangered Species Act (ESA of 1973) have turned off much of the water to the Central Valley’s Westside, to prevent salt water contaminating the habitat of the Delta smelt fish. This has led to demands that water be sent downriver to the farms from agribusiness. However much of the recreational and commercial fishing in the state, based around salmon, would be affected if the salmon's main food source of delta smelt was to be endangered.

Many CVP water users are represented by the Central Valley Project Water Association (CVPWA).

Project history

The Central Valleymarker is one of the largest geographical features in California, covering . Farming in the valley has a long history, dating back to well before the California Gold Rush. It began mostly with cattle ranching, but a drought that lasted from 1863 to 1864 brought an end to this livelihood. In the years following the unprecedented die-off of cattle, farmers in the valley practiced dry-weather farming of small grains. In more recent times, the agriculture of the valley has turned to large, mechanized, irrigated farms, using far more water than any farming practices in the past. Due to the extreme change in rainfall patterns in the Central Valley—with over of annual rain in the north while less than of rain falls annually in the south—a solution clearly was needed to bring water to the dry parts of the region, and perhaps extend to more arid regions in southern California.

Flood on the Sacramento River, showing levee breach
Before the CVP was initiated, the erratic rainfall patterns in the valley, with over 75% of rainfall occurring in a five-month rainy season, caused difficulties for inhabitants of the valley. The valley suffered from a series of floods and droughts in the north and south sections of it respectively, brought on by the imbalanced rainfall. The Sacramento River, which drains the north part, receives between 60% and 75% of the precipitation of northern California, while it covers only about 25% of the area. The San Joaquin River, which drains the south part, suffers from just the opposite problem in that it covers a large area but collects little water. This peculiar phenomenon has led to severe floods in the north, while the arid south often experiences droughts. The Sacramento River has had a catastrophic history of floods,
while no less than   of the San Joaquin channel is dry.

As a result, the southern end of the valley, (San Joaquin Valleymarker) was suffering from an increasing number of crops needing irrigation with a steadily shrinking water supply. Water diversions off the river lowered the stream flow at the Sacramento-San Joaquin Deltamarker, which caused major problems for the water quality of the area. At the delta, there is a shallow tidal estuary called Suisun Bay. If the combined flows of the rivers at that point was less than per second, there would be a sudden influx of salt water into the bay at high tide. The situation was at its worst from 1919 to 1924, when a wood-boring saltwater worm, teredo (a genus of shipworm), saw a massive jump in population in the Suisun Bay. The teredo population caused approximately 25 million dollars of damage to wooden structures in the bay. The worst year was 1924, when the combined flow from the rivers was at a record low. By 1926, the neighboring cities of Pittsburghmarker and Antiochmarker decided to cease drawing water from the bay, because of its salt content, which once peaked at 65 percent. By 1930, the situation was so bleak, that the state pressed for the construction of a dam at Kennett (later to become the Shasta Dammarker), that would be high, to keep constant the flow of water to Suisun Bay.

Although the first attempt at developing a Central Valley Project dates back to 1873, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prepared a report detailing irrigation in the Central Valley and Tulare Basin, the plan, which had gone through several revisions since then, was submitted much later to the Governor of California, in 1919. In 1931, the State Water Plan was submitted by the Division of Water Resources to the legislature; this was a plan for what would later be known as the Central Valley Project. The California Central Valley Project Act, which authorized the sale of revenue bonds to build the Central Valley Project, was passed in 1933. Unfortunately, the passing of the act coincided with the Great Depression, and the bonds failed to sell. The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1935 handed the CVP over to the federal government. The Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935 provided funds to build the first components of the CVP by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Rivers and Harbors Act was reauthorized in 1937, giving control of the CVP once more to the Bureau of Reclamation.

The CVP's facilities were built for several primary purposes: to provide flood and water control, to improve navigation, to provide a water supply and to generate power. The authorizations of the following CVP components and divisions were made under the Rivers and Harbors Act of October 17, 1940:

The Central Valley Project began with the construction of the Contra Costa Canalmarker in 1937; it started delivering water on August 16, 1940; and was completed to its terminus in 1948. The massive Shasta Dammarker on the Sacramento River, the largest and most important dam in the Central Valley Project, was begun in 1938 and completed in 1945. The Sacramento River was blocked on January 1944, and power was first generated at the dam in June of that year. The Folsom Dammarker was begun in 1948 and finished in 1956.Some of the CVP's components, including the San Luis Reservoirmarker, O'Neill Forebaymarker, and part of the California Aqueduct, were developed in tandem with and are shared with the California State Water Project (CSWP or SWP).

American River Division

Nimbus Dam on the American River
The American River Division of the Central Valley Project consists of three units, which are the Folsom Unit, Sly Park Unit, and Auburn-Folsom South Unit. The former two were authorized in 1949, and the latter in 1965. True to its name, the American River Division taps the American River, a tributary to the Sacramento River, which drains off the west side of the Sierra Nevada.

The Folsom and Sly Park units of the American River Division are primarily for flood control and municipal water supply, with Folsom Dam being the single most important component for flood control. The primary purpose of the Auburn-Folsom South Unit is irrigation. In 1955, Folsom and the downstream Nimbus dams spared downstream communities 20 million dollars in flood damage. In the 1963-1964 floods, the Folsom and Nimbus dams prevented some 90 million dollars in damage. The largest flood came in 1986, when 1,140,000 acre feet of water poured in for six days without stopping. The system altogether has prevented over 4.83 billion dollars of flood damage as on 1994. In addition, the American River division provides water to irrigate roughly , with a annual crop value of 12 million dollars. Power generated by the dams are marketed to the Western Area Power Administration. Recreational opportunities also come with the reservoirs formed by the dams, and Folsom Lake is especially popular with tourists.

Folsom Unit consists of Folsom Dammarker and powerplant, Folsom Lakemarker, Nimbus Dammarker and powerplant, and Lake Natomamarker. All of these structures are built directly on the American River.

The Sly Park Unit relies on water from Sly Park Creek and Camp Creek, which are both tributaries to the American River. On Sly Park Creek, there are the Sly Park Dam and its reservoir, Jenkinson Lake; and on Camp Creek, there is the Camp Creek Diversion Dam, which supplies water to Jenkinson Lake, which in turn supplies water to the town of Camino, Californiamarker, via the Camino Conduit. The Sly Park Dam was begun in 1953 and finished in 1955, while the Camp Creek Diversion Dam was begun and finished both in 1953.

The Auburn-Folsom South Unit taps both the American River and several of its tributaries, including Shirttail Creek. The currently working components of the project include Sugar Pine Dam and reservoir and the Folsom South Canal. A second and third dam, the Auburn Dammarker and County Line Dam, were proposed but never built due to various reasons, including the discovery of a nearby earthquake fault.

Folsom Unit

Folsom Dam
The most prominent and important feature of the Folsom Unit is Folsom Dammarker, which was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from October 1948 to May 1956. The dam, originally proposed as a flood control dam with a capacity of 355,000 acre feet, was revised to be a multi-purpose dam with a capacity of 1.01 million acre feet. The Folsom Dam's main structure measures high and is long. The left extension of the dam stands high and long, while its counterpart on the right is the same height but much longer, nearly . To hold the water in Folsom Lakemarker, the reservoir created by the Folsom Dam, it was necessary to add eight more earthfill saddle dams and one auxiliary dam.The main structure of the dam rests on granitic rock. The eight-gated spillway of the dam can carry up to of water per second, while the outlet works can operate at per second. The peak calculated inflow for the American River is per second from of upstream watershed.

The reservoir is ringed by a series of smaller dams, the most notable of which is the Mormon Island Auxiliary Dam in a ravine called Blue Ravine. The rolled earthfill dam is high and long. The amount of earth it uses amounts to about 3,820,000 cubic yards. The other earthfill saddle dams are between and in height, and from to long. All of these dams are connected together with the main dam. If seen as a whole, the dam, encompassing the main, wing, saddle, and auxiliary dams, is . This distance is . The total volume of material used in building the dams is 13,790,000 cubic yards of material, including earth, concrete, and steel.

Folsom Dam forms Folsom Lakemarker (also Lake Folsom), a multi-use, lake. The Folsom Lake State Recreational Area surrounds the lake, and is the most popular multi-use year round state park in the state of California. The park, which has over of trails, covers .

Panorama of Folsom Lake during drought; the lake is at less than 25 percent of full pool.

The Folsom Dam also has a hydroelectric power plant, the Folsom Powerplant. The power plant has a nameplate capacity of 198,720 kilowatts (KW), driven by three generators each producing over 76,000 KW which are in turn powered by three 74,000 horsepower (HP) turbines. Each turbine is fed by a penstock, in diameter, that tunnel through the right side of the dam. The power plant was begun in June 1951, and mostly finished by October 5, 1953.

Nimbus Dam from the air
 downstream from the Folsom Dam, another smaller dam called the Nimbus Dammarker blocks the American River, forming Lake Natomamarker, a popular recreation area. The Nimbus Dam is   high above foundations and has a hydraulic height of  . It measures   long. It is   thick at its base, while it tapers off to   thick at its crest. The dam is equipped with 17 spillway gates, which have a combined release capacity of   per second. 121,000 cubic yards of concrete are used in the dam. Above the dam, the drainage area of the American River is  . The Nimbus Dam rests on some   of alluvium, as well as tuff and volcanic sandstone.

Looking downstream at the Nimbus Dam
Nimbus Dam also has a hydroelectric power plant, on the north side of the American River. Its nameplate generating capacity is 7,763 kilowatts with two 3,500 kilowatt generators, each powered by a 9,400 horsepower, 150 rpm Kaplan turbine. Each of the six penstocks that feed water to the turbines is long, high, and wide.

Another downstream of the Nimbus Dam lies the Nimbus Fish Hatchery, a fish hatchery built in 1955. The hatchery was built to compensate for lost spawning grounds of anadromous fish in the American River. The hatchery can hold 30 million eggs, and water is supplied through a concrete pipe, in diameter, that carries water from the Nimbus Dam.

Sly Park Unit

The Sly Park Unit centers around Sly Park Dam and its 41,000 acre-foot, reservoir, Jenkinson Lake, both near Placerville, Californiamarker. The dam was begun on May 1953 with clearing operations, and was completed in mid 1955. The earthfill Sly Park Dam is high, with a hydraulic height of , and long. Its auxiliary dam is high and long. The spillway of Sly Park Dam is actually in the auxiliary dam: it is a concrete chute long and can carry per second, while the outlet works at the foot of the dam can carry per second. The drainage area of Sly Park Creek behind the dam is . The Camino Conduit diverts water roughly west from the Jenkinson Reservoir.

The Camp Creek Diversion Dam is built on Camp Creek, a drainage south-west of Sly Park Creek. The dam was begun on February 15, 1953; and finished on November 29, 1953. It diverts some water from the creek into Jenkinson Lake through the Camp Creek Tunnel, a tunnel in diameter, and with a capacity of per second. The dam itself is tall and long.

Auburn-Folsom South Unit

Sugar Pine Dam
Sugar Pine Dam is the major dam of the Auburn-Folsom South Unit, built on North Shirttail Creek, a tributary to the American River. The dam construction was begun in early 1979 and completed in 1982. Holding back Sugar Pine Reservoir, the earthfill Sugar Pine Dam is high and long. Its base is thick, and the dam contains a total of of material. The Sugar Pine Reservoir holds 6,921 acre feet of water. The Sugar Pine Pipeline, completed in 1983, carries per second of water through a to pipe to Foresthill, Californiamarker.

The currently Folsom South Canal is complete in two of its five sections, which originally was planned to be long. The canal diverts water from the Nimbus Dammarker, part of the Folsom-Sly Park division, southward. It has a capacity of per second and has a width of at its base.

Foresthill Bridge from the American River
Auburn Dammarker was a proposed dam on the North Fork of the American River, near the city of Auburn, Californiamarker. The concrete thin-arch dam would produce electricity and provide flood control, water supply and recreation for and from the North and Middle forks of the river. The power plant would have had five 150,000 Kilowatt units, for a total generating capacity of 750,000 kilowatts. At a height of , a length of , and a volume of 6.5 million cubic yards of concrete alone, it would easily have been the largest concrete arch dam ever built. However, because of the presence of a major earthquake fault in the area, and because of the frequent earthquakes caused by it, the dam project was abandoned, ending a controversy over the American River. Notably, one of the largest bridges ever built by Reclamation, the Foresthill Bridge still stands near the original dam site. The bridge is high and long.

County Line Dam was another proposed dam, this time on a smaller stream named Deer Creek. The dam site is about south of that of Folsom Dammarker. The dam would have been high and long, impounding 40,000 acre feet of water. The project is authorized for construction but has not yet been built, nor is a specific time proposed for building the dam.

Delta Division

The Delta Division of the Central Valley Project transports water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Deltamarker and the central portion of the Central Valley. The division consists of a series of canals and pumping plants. As of 1992, of farmland were made arable by the water provided by the division. The operation of the Delta Division centers around the water quality of the Delta and Suisun Bay, where a 19th-century teredo infestation and rising salt content spelled problems for nearby towns.

The Delta Cross Channel, begun in 1945, is a large, controlled diversion channel that carries water between the Sacramento River and Snodgrass Slough. The path of the water is diverted from the Sacramento into the slough near Walnut Grove, Californiamarker, through a wide channel that has a capacity of per second. There is also a connecting channel between the Sacramento River and Mokelumne River, for the purposes of keeping water quality stable. After this complex series of diversions, the water is drawn into of naturally formed channels to the C.W. Bill Jones Pumping Plant, which moves water into the Delta-Mendota Canalmarker. The diversion system was necessary to prevent the relatively clean and natural flows of the Sacramento River from mixing with the highly polluted remnants of the San Joaquin River. During floods from the San Joaquin watershed, the floodgates at the head of the diversion are closed, preventing toxins from reaching the Tracy Pumping Plant and eventually, the regional water supply.

Delta-Mendota Canal
The C.W. Bill Jones Pumping Plant (formerly the Tracy Pumping Plant) lies at the terminus of the Delta Cross Channel and moves water into the Delta-Mendota Canal. The plant, which has six separate pumps, was built from June 23, 1947, to 1951. Each pump, powered by a 22,250 horsepower motor, lifts up to per second of water into three -diameter pipes that lead to the Delta-Mendota Canal, for a combined capacity of per second. The Delta-Mendota Canalmarker carries water upstream through the San Joaquin Valleymarker, terminating at the Mendota Pool, a reservoir on the San Joaquin River. In effect, the C.W. Bill Jones Pumping Plant and the canal move Sacramento River water upstream into the San Joaquin Valley, replenishing water supply in the area and compensating for the polluted and insufficient water in the San Joaquin River.

The Contra Costa Canalmarker, beginning at Rock Slough, diverts water from the Delta to the Martinez Reservoir. The canal climbs a total of , and its flow is assisted by four pump plants. The canal diverts per second at first, but loses most of its volume by its terminus, where its average flow is only per second. The Contra Costa Canal was begun on October 19, 1937, and was finished in 1948.

Contra Loma Dam and Reservoir
The Contra Loma Dam is a storage reservoir for the Contra Costa Canal. The dam was built from November 3, 1967, to November 24, 1967. The dam, which contains 641,000 cubic yards of material, is high, long, and at its base. The reservoir holds 2,100 acre feet of water, and the spillway is a concrete chute with a capacity of per second. The dam is near the southern end of the city of Antioch, Californiamarker.

Friant Division

The Friant Division of the CVP is the conduit for transporting and storing San Joaquin River water both north and south throughout the San Joaquin Valleymarker. Much of the project centers around the infamous Friant Dammarker, completed in 1942, which has had severe negative effects on the San Joaquin River. Other components of the project include the Friant-Kern Canal and the Madera Canal.

The massive Friant Dammarker, a concrete gravity dam on the San Joaquin River, is the major component of the Friant Division. The dam was begun in 1939 and completed in 1942. It is high and long, thick at the base and thick at its crest. The dam contains 2,135,000 cubic yards of concrete. The spillway of the dam has a capacity of per second, and the outlet works are able to run at per second. The drainage basin of the river above the dam is roughly . The reservoir, Millerton Lakemarker, is long and has of shoreline. Notably, parts of the dam that were once in good condition have begun to deteriorate, and the Bureau of Reclamation predicted in 1984 that this slow decay will eventually affect the structural integrity of the dam.

Friant Dam
The Friant Dam has several means to release water. The three massive spillways of the dam are similar in placement to that of Shasta Dammarker. Each of the three spillway chutes is controlled by a gate wide and high. As mentioned before, the spillways have a capacity of roughly per second, which is approximately per second per spillway chute. The elevation of the tops of the spillways is at above sea level. The gates, which rise by means of flotation, form part of the dam crest in low water, and that is the major difference from the Shasta Dam. Despite the massive size of the spillways, they have rarely been used. The river outlet works of the dam (into the river itself) consist of four steel pipes that bore through the dam, each with a diameter of . Each pipe is controlled by a valve at the downstream end, in diameter, for a total release capacity of per second. However, like the spillways, this system is used only a fraction of its capacity, with releases often less than per second. A similarly designed set of outlet works release water into the Friant-Kern Canal, and a smaller set of outlet works feed water into the Madera Canal.

The Friant-Kern Canalmarker is long, carrying water south from Millerton Lake to the Kern River near Bakersfield, Californiamarker. The canal has an initial volume of per second, supplying water to Tulare, Fresno, and Kernmarker Counties. At its end at the Kern River, the canal carries per second. The canal is wide at the top and wide at its base in the concrete sections, which encompass over 85 percent of its length. In the earthen sections, the canal is wide at the base. Water depth in the canal varies, but in most sections it ranges from deep in the concrete sections to deep in the earthen sections. Over 350 utility lines were relocated during construction of the canal, while more than 500 canal support structures were built.

The smaller 1945 Madera Canalmarker runs north from Millerton Lake to farmlands in Madera Countymarker and eventually the Chowchilla River. The canal has an initial capacity of per second, decreasing to per second as it reaches its terminus. The initial capacity of the canal at its beginning was per second from construction to 1965, when the canal walls were raised to increase the capacity to its present capacity. The water depth is to deep in most places, and roughly 79 percent of the canal is earthen.

East Side Division

The East Side Division of the CVP basically consists of New Melones Unit, which is New Melones Dammarker, Lake, and Powerplant, all on the Stanislaus Rivermarker. The New Melones Dam is the seventh highest in the United States, standing tall. (See List of dams of the United States by height.) One of the more controversial divisions of the CVP, the New Melones Dam, despite its benefits, was heavily fought over by many, for many reasons; including loss of whitewater rapids on the Stanislaus and the flooding of archaeological sites in the limestone canyon, the deepest of its kind in the western United States.

New Melones Dam
New Melones Dammarker is central to the New Melones Unit and the East Side Division, and is located about east of Stockton, Californiamarker. The rockfill dam, built on the Stanislaus River from 1966 to 1979, submerges the high Old Melones Dam in its reservoir (hence the term 'New'). The dam is high and long, holding back the 2.4 million acre foot, New Melones Lake, which has of shoreline. The dam can release per second. New Melones Dam was built from July 1966, when the access roads were built; to October 28, 1978, when the dam embankment was completed. The reservoir filled to capacity in 1983.

Below the New Melones Dam is the New Melones Powerplant on the north bank of the Stanislaus River. The two generators of the plant each have a capacity of 150,000 kilowatts, though the plant consistently produces only about 279,000 kilowatts. Two penstocks branching off the outlet works of the dam, each in diameter, feed water to the power plant. The turbines are Francis turbines and have a hydraulic head of roughly .

Sacramento Canals Division

Red Bluff Diversion Dam
The Sacramento River Division of the CVP, authorized on September 29, 1950, consists mainly of the Sacramento Canals Unit in Tehama County, Glenn Countymarker, and Colusa County, in the Sacramento Valley. A series of diversion dams, pump plants, and canals make up the unit, which takes water from the Sacramento River into several canals that irrigate roughly . The Black Butte Dam was integrated into the Sacramento Canals Division on October 23, 1970.

The Red Bluff Diversion Dam is a concrete gated weir and series of earthfill dikes on the Sacramento River, high and in length. The dam was begun in 1962 and completed in 1964. Water diverted from the river travels to the Corning Canal and Tehama-Colusa Canal. Since the dam blocks the main channel of the river, it has had negative effects on the anadromous fish of the river, such as salmon. Even though the dam has fish ladders and openings to allow salmon to migrate upstream and downstream, the turbulence generated by the openings disorients the fish, making them easy targets for large predators such as squawfish, which were said to have "lined up on the downstream side of Red Bluff Dam to feast on the small fish". Despite efforts to help the fish, including installation of artificial gravel beds and a fish screen, the population dropped to less than 5 percent than that of the pre-dam era.

Funks Reservoir on the Tehama-Colusa Canal
The Tehama-Colusa Canal is the canal that carries diverted water away from the Red Bluff Diversion Dam. long, the canal initially carries per second, and at its terminus per second. The canal was built from July 31, 1965 to May 13, 1980. Fish facilities in the canal were completed on July 8, 1971; Reach 6 of the canal on April 20, 1979; and Reach 7 on July 3, 1979. A dam called Funks Dam controls water flow along the Tehama-Colusa Canal. Five pump plants take water from the canal and feed it into the Colusa County water distribution grid.

West San Joaquin Division

San Luis Unit

Satellite photo of San Luis Reservoir and O'Neill Forebay
The San Luis Unit is the backbone of the West San Joaquin Division of the CVP. The unit, authorized in 1960, was paid for both by the State of California and by the federal government. The unit consists of several dams, large reservoirs, pump plants, canals, and drains.

Sisk (San Luis) Dam and Reservoir
The B.F.marker Sisk Dammarker (San Luis Dam) is the major dam of the project, west of the city of Los Baños, Californiamarker. Built from 1963 to 1967 on San Luis Creek, the dam forms the San Luis Reservoirmarker. The B.F. Sisk Dam is high, long, and is at an elevation of above sea level. Its thickness at the base is at the widest point, while the crest thickness is . These dimensions make it the third largest dam by volume in the United States, third only to Fort Peck Dammarker and Oahe Dammarker. The dam has a morning-glory type spillway that can accommodate roughly per second. Unlike most dams, the outlet works of the B.F. Sisk Dam have a higher capacity than the spillway, at per second. San Luis Reservoir has a capacity of 2,041,000 acre feet. Notably, the dam is situated near two seismic faults: the San Andreas Faultmarker is from the dam, while the Calaveras-Hayward Fault is closer, only away. The dam is designed specially to withstand a seismic shock from either fault; it was built to withstand an earthquake of the magnitude of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

William R.
Gianelli Pumping-Generating Plant aerial view
The William R. Gianelli Pumping-Generating Plant is located directly downstream of the B.F. Sisk Dam. It is a unique dual-purpose facility encompassing eight units that can either pump water to the San Luis Reservoir or produce power. Each unit can create 53,000 kilowatts when generating, and uses 63,000 horsepower when pumping. The water used while generating is per second per unit, while each unit can pump per second.

The O'Neill Dam
O'Neill Dam is downstream of San Luis Dam, also on San Luis Creek. Forming a reservoir called the O'Neill Forebaymarker, the dam is high, long, and is at an elevation of . Like the upstream B.F. Sisk Dam, the O'Neill Dam has a morning-glory type spillway, only it has a much higher capacity, per second. The O'Neill Forebay (reservoir) has a capacity of 56,400 acre feet. Water is diverted into the forebay from the Delta-Mendota Canalmarker, part of the Delta Division of the CVP. The O'Neill Pumping Plant lifts water into the forebay. Similar to the William R. Gianelli Pumping-Generating Plant, it can generate 4,200 kilowatts per unit of power on demand when not pumping.

The concrete-lined San Luis Canal leads water away from the O'Neill Forebay. long, extending from the reservoir to Kettleman City, Californiamarker, the canal is "the largest earth-moving project in Reclamation history". At Kettleman City, the water from the conduit feeds into the California Aqueduct. The canal is wide at the surface, wide at the bottom, and deep; and able to move between and per second of water. The first release of water into the canal was on April 13, 1967. The Dos Amigos Pumping Plant relifts the water in the San Luis Canal vertically. Each of the six units of the plant can pump up to per second, adding up to a total of per second.

The Coalinga Canal (Pleasant Valley Canal) is a branch of the San Luis Canal. It originates at the Pleasant Valley Pumping Plant, which pumps water from the San Luis Canal through nine units that deliver per second of water to the Coalinga Canal. per second of water is fed into a channel that provides water to land in the immediate area. At its end, the capacity decreases to per second.

The Los Banos Detention Dam, completed in 1965, and the Little Panoche Detention Dam, completed in 1966, provide flood control and recreation to the city of Los Banos, Californiamarker. The former dam is high and long. Its capacity for storage is 34,500 acre feet, and its maximum release capacity is per second. The latter dam is high and long, storing 5,580 acre feet of water.

The San Luis Drain is a subsurface drainage system that handles irrigation runoff from approximately in the are irrigated by the San Luis Unit. The drain would have discharged waste water into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Deltamarker, however; concerns about water quality paused the project indefinitely in 1975. of the original planned of drainage channels were completed. The Kesterson Reservoirmarker is a series of holding ponds designed to evaporate polluted runoff water from the San Luis Drain. The original capacity of the drain was per second.

San Felipe Division

The San Felipe Division of the CVP was authorized in 1960 to bring water to of land in the Santa Clara Valley in Santa Claramarker, San Benitomarker, Santa Cruzmarker, and Monterey counties. The division consists of one storage reservoir, four conduits for transporting water, and several pumping plants.

San Justo Dam is the major dam of the San Felipe Division, an earthfill structure approximately southwest of Hollister, Californiamarker. The dam is high, long, and its elevation is above sea level. The dam is an offstream storage facility, forming the San Justo Reservoir. San Justo Reservoir is deep and contains 9,906 acre feet of water. An auxiliary dam high and long assists the San Justo Dam in holding back the reservoir.

The Pacheco Tunnel diverts water from the San Luis Reservoirmarker through the Diablo Mountainsmarker. The two reaches of the diameter tunnel total long. Between the two reaches, the Pacecho Pumping Plant assists the flow between the two sections. The per second capacity Pacheco Conduit runs from the Pacheco Tunnel to the point where it divides into several smaller channels:
  • The Hollister Conduit, which is long, carries up to per second of water from Pacheco Conduit into the San Justo Reservoir.
  • The Santa Clara Tunnel and Conduit runs , carrying per second of water.

Shasta/Trinity River Divisions

Shasta Division

Shasta Dam, with Shasta Lake at its highest level, July, 1965
The Shasta Division is one of the two divisions of the CVP, the other being the Trinity River Division, that divert water from the northern section of the Central Valley to the southern parts of the state. The division taps the Sacramento River, north of Redding, Californiamarker. The Shasta Dammarker and its reservoir are the central components to the division, and the dam and powerplant are among the largest in California. Power generation, irrigation, river flow maintenance, water supply, and environmental reasons are kept in check by the division. Recreation is also popular on the large reservoirs maintained by the division. Components of the Shasta Division include Shasta Dam, Shasta Lakemarker, Shasta Powerplant, Keswick Dam, and Keswick Powerplant.

The Shasta Dammarker and accompanying reservoir are built on the Sacramento River. The dam provides flood control and water storage for water users in the lower basin of the river. The second largest dam by mass in the United States, exceeded only by the Grand Coulee Dammarker in the Pacific Northwest, the concrete arch-gravity Shasta Dam is high, long, and thick at the base. The dam contains 6,270,000 cubic yards of concrete. The 4,551,000 acre foot Shasta Lakemarker, the largest man-made lake in California, is formed behind the dam, which rests on solid greenstone. The maximum spillway release capacity through the dam is per second, per second of which is through the river outlets and per second of which is through the massive spillway on the front face of the dam.

The Shasta Powerplant, one of the largest hydroelectric plants in California, is located at the foot of the Shasta Dam. 5 main generators, two of which went on-line in 1944 and the three later of which were installed completely in 1949, make up the 680,000 kilowatt generating capacity of the dam. The units, manufactured by General Electric, measure nearly across each. The total height of the plant is .

Keswick Dam
The Keswick Dam is also on the Sacramento River. downstream from the Shasta Dam, the dam forms the 23,800 Keswick Reservoir, an afterbay for the Shasta Dam that stabilizes water released from it. The dam is high, long, and thick at the base, containing roughly 214,000 cubic yards of concrete. The dam rests on schist rock that is heavily weathered and fractured by a series of veins and seams. The dam's power plant produces a further 117,000 kilowatts of electricity to bolster electric production from the Shasta Dam.

Trinity River Division

The Trinity Division operates in close proximity to the Shasta Division. The structures of the division use the waters of the Trinity River, a tributary to the Klamath River, which flows to the Pacific Oceanmarker. The Trinity Dammarker and Trinity Lakemarker are the main dam and reservoir of the division. There are also three other dams and several diversion channels and tunnels contained in the division. Water is stored in Trinity Lake, released downstream to the Lewiston Dammarker, partially diverted into the Clear Creek Tunnel, flows to generates power at the Judge Francis Carr Powerhouse, and finally discharges into Whiskeytown Lake. Cow Creek Unit and Clear Creek South Unit are part of the division.

Trinity Dam and Trinity Lake
The Trinity Dammarker, built from 1957 to 1962, blocks the Trinity River to form Trinity Lakemarker, one of the largest man-made lakes in California. The dam, from Lewiston, Californiamarker, is a straight-axis earthfill design, high, and long. The spillway, auxiliary spillway, and outlet works of the dam, which can release per second, per second, and per second, respectively, have a combined release capacity of per second. The Trinity Powerplant, which began generating power in 1964, is a peaking power plant with a capacity of 140,000 kilowatts. Trinity Lake has a volume of 2,448,000 acre feet at full pool, and is a popular recreational area.

The Lewiston Dammarker and reservoir are an afterbay to the Trinity Dam, also serving as a diversion dam. Roughly high and long, the dam is downstream from Trinity Dam. At full pool, the reservoir capacity is 14,660 acre feet. The Lewiston Powerplant is a hydroelectric plant located at the foot of Lewiston Dam, producing 350 megawatts. The dam is a run-of-river plant, meaning that it uses the natural flow and elevation drop of a river to generate electricity.
The dam diverts water into the   diameter Clear Creek Tunnel, which runs   to the Whiskeytown Reservoir.
The Trinity River Fish Hatchery, with a capacity of 40 million eggs, is downstream from the Lewiston Dam, compensating for lost fish habitat upstream of the dam.

The Clear Creek Tunnel leads water to Clear Creek (also Crystal Creek), a neighboring drainage to the Trinity River. At the end of the tunnel lies the Judge Francis Carr Powerhouse, originally named the Clear Creek Powerplant when it began operating in 1963. The power plant generates 154,400 kilowatts of electricity before the water is discharged into the uppermost extremity of the Whiskeytown Reservoirmarker, also located on Clear Creek.

Whiskeytown Dam and Reservoir
Whiskeytown Reservoir is formed by the Whiskeytown Dam, northwest of Redding, Californiamarker. The earthfill dam, built from 1960 to 1963, is high, long, and elevation at crest is . The dam has a spillway capacity of per second and per second may be passed through its outlet works.

Spring Creek Dam
Spring Creek Dammarker is on Spring Creek, a tributary to the Sacramento River. The dam is an earthfill dam high and long. Its original construction was from 1961 to 1963. Spring Creek Reservoir, capacity 5,870 acre feet, backs up behind the dam. Water may be released through a set of outlet works, able to release per second, and a spillway, which can release per second. The dam serves to trap debris from entering the Spring Creek Powerplant, and also to prevent contaminated acid mine drainage from proceeding downstream and contaminating the river system. The Spring Creek Powerplant, capacity 180,000 kilowatts, is located at the base of the dam. The power plant receives water from the Spring Creek Tunnel, a diameter tunnel carrying water roughly from Whiskeytown Lake.


The CVP has played a major role in the development of the economy in California. Since its completion, the over of agricultural lands irrigated by the project have produced a total revenue of over $300 billion USD, as of about 2000. The project is responsible for delivering 7 million acre feet of water annually to agricultural, municipal, and industrial consumers. 5.6 billion kilowatt-hours of energy are generated annually from the 11 hydroelectric power plants operated by the project, which is enough electricity annually to meet the needs of 2 million Californians. Of the many reservoirs operated by the project, many of them provide recreation to their respective areas.


Reservoirs in the project used partially or entirely for recreation, including fishing, boating, hunting, and swimming, include:

Power generation

Facilities that generate power in the project are listed by kilowatts (KW) produced:


Divisions that deliver water for irrigation are listed and detailed for acre feet delivered annually, land irrigated and annual crop value of a typical, certain year:

  • American River Division: 51,000 acre feet
    • Irrigates
    • Annual crop value over $12,000,000 USD
  • Delta Division:
    • Irrigates
    • Annual crop value
  • Friant Division:
    • Irrigates
    • Annual crop value
  • East Side Division: N/A; the primary purpose is power generation and flood control.
  • Sacramento River Division:
    • Irrigates
    • Annual crop value

  • San Felipe Division: 132,400 acre feet
    • Irrigates
    • Annual crop value over $70 million (1991)
  • West San Joaquin Division: 1,250,000 acre feet
    • Irrigates
    • Annual crop value $614.8 million USD (1998)
  • Shasta/Trinity Divisions:
    • Irrigates
    • Annual crop value $256 million USD (1990)

Other benefits

  • The Spring Creek Dammarker prevents contaminated acid mine drainage from Iron Mountain Minemarker into the Sacramento River.
  • Delta Division helps to prevent usable Sacramento River water from mixing with polluted San Joaquin River water.
  • A "TCD" (Temperature Control Device) at Shasta Dammarker maintains downstream water temperatures on the Sacramento River, improving living conditions of fish.
  • The Trinity Dammarker prevents spring floods from destroying spawning grounds on the lower Trinity River.
  • The dams on the Sacramento River prevent contamination of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Deltamarker by salty water.

Negative impacts

Despite its benefits, the Central Valley Project has had a series of former and still-occurring problems throughout its history.

Friant Dam

The Friant Dammarker, one of the most important dams in the CVP, not only suffers from problems with structural integrity, but has destroyed the ecosystem of the lower San Joaquin River, leaving it dry for stretches totaling , polluted, and with a remaining volume less than per second directly below the dam. The annual population of chinook salmon, once one of the largest salmon runs on the Pacific Coast, has been destroyed by the dam operations, also ruining a thriving fishing industry along the San Joaquin River. Pesticides, selenium and other toxic chemicals all contribute to the pollution in the lower San Joaquin River.

Shasta Dam

The Shasta Dammarker, at the opposite end of the Central Valley from Friant Dam, is the largest and one of the most important dams of the CVP, yet has had a large negative effect on the Winnemem Wintu of California, as well as perhaps other native groups. Originally, for more than 1,000 years, up to 14,000 Winnemem Wintu people lived in the area near the confluence of the McCloud River and Sacramento River. After the Shasta Dam was constructed, most of the land in the vicinity was submerged, and by 1900 only 396 tribe members had survived. Currently, only about 125 members of the tribe survive.

San Luis Dam failure risk

Despite the fact that the San Luis Dam was engineered to withstand a quake of the magnitude of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake (magnitude 7.8), the dam has been shown to have some faults in structural integrity. In September 1981, a landslide occurred on the upstream face of the dam while the water level was low, wide and moving material up to . The reason for this near disaster was that the dam embankment was constructed on a plastic-like clay called slope wash, which lost most of its structural integrity when wet. The slope wash, wettened when the reservoir was high, gave way when the only force that was holding it in place, the weight of the water itself, receded. A buttress was constructed against the slope to stabilize material, and was completed in April 1982. However, the danger is still there, as the buttress was only built against the slide section, and most of the rest of the dam, nearly long, was not stabilized.


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