Sophie Says: Wall of Water

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Gramps Says Some things work so well that over time we become complacent. Let me give you an example. There is a 290 foot high wall of water lurking just a few miles upstream. Monticello Dam, against all of the natural forces of nature, holds back 1,500,000 acre feet of Lake Berryessa water. That is enough to cover the entire county of Yolo with over two feet of water.  When the dam was completed in 1957 the threat of all this stored energy seemed more real. Matt Baker recalls that when he attended grammar school they would sound a warning that would prompt a flood drill. All of the children would line up and march to the nearest high ground. Nowadays when it comes to warnings we are on our own.  There is a horn mounted on a tower next to City Hall. Several reliable sources state that the horn was used to summon volunteer fire fighters to duty. There were three phones in town that would receive emergency fire calls and the horn could be activated from any of the three. A retired fire fighter recalls that there is also a siren mounted on the tower, but that he has never heard it. The most repeated memory is of the horn sounding every day at noon.    As to evacuation, my advice is to follow the training the children received in grammar school and head for the nearest high ground pronto. You can also go north or south but not east. If you head east you will need a canoe for sure. There is a nifty live action video on the internet titled ‘Monticello Dam Failure Simulation’ that displays a time line of the projected flow of flood water should the dam suffer a catastrophic failure. You will see the water fan out easterly through Davis and south east through Dixon, eventually spilling into the Sacramento River.  I suggest we continue to enjoy our blissful complacency. Let the Bureau of Reclamation inspectors and Solano Irrigation District worry about the dam, after all they have stated, “It’s one of the best dams of its kind ever built”.  How about a bit of trivia? Did you know that: The ‘Glory Hole’ spillway is the largest of its kind.  There is enough water in the lake to last seven years (at the rate of use in 1977). While Yolo County opted not to participate in the dam project the University of California Davis campus located in Yolo County receives Lake Berryessa water through a dedicated 60” pipeline.  After the dam was built the water table rose in the Dixon area and SID installed 17 wells to draw down the ground water as it was adversely affecting the almond trees. Sophie Says The dam has never cost me a minute of lost sleep. In any event I have the perfect back up plan in place. It’s called the Dog Paddle. Thanks to resources: A retired fire fighter, the good volunteers at the Winters History Museum, Ruben Martinez, Ron Karlan, Matt Baker, Charles Wallace and former director of Solano Irrigation District circa 1978.]]>

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