Isabella Dam groundbreaking ceremony marks beginning of Phase II construction

Published April 9, 2018

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District hosted a groundbreaking ceremony April 3 to mark the beginning of the second phase of construction for the Isabella Dam Safety Modification Project in Kern County.

Representative Kevin McCarthy, California’s 23rd Congressional District, and Kern County 1st District Supervisor Mick Gleason joined the Corps’ South Pacific Division Commander Brig. Gen. Peter Helmlinger and Sacramento District Commander Col. David Ray, as well as other senior officials from the Corps and the U.S. Forest Service, to mark the milestone.

While phase I relocated necessary facilities out of the way, phase II is when one of the nation’s most at-risk dam facilities will begin its major upgrade.

Construction crews will raise both the main and auxiliary dams 16 feet to help minimize the risk of overtopping, add filters and drainage to both dams to increase dam stability, construct improvements to the existing spillway, and build a new 300-foot-wide emergency spillway. 

“This is the largest Civil Works construction project in the South Pacific Division,” said Brig. Gen. Peter Helmlinger, “with a total project cost of more than $600 million dollars. It demonstrates the Corps’ continuing commitment to deliver our Civil Works program through the design and construction of vital infrastructure.”

Representative Kevin McCarthy, California's 23rd Congressional District provides remarks at the Phase II groundbreaking ceremony for the Isabella Dam Safety Modification Project April 3, 2018. (Photo: US Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District)Rep. McCarthy is eager to see the benefit of the Corps’ commitment at Isabella.

“What I want us to do is to focus on what the future will bring,” remarked Rep. McCarthy, with Isabella Lake as his backdrop. “This is a beautiful view behind us and it’s only going to get better. The water is going to be higher, the amount of recreation will be greater, and the protection will be even stronger.”

Phase I of the project was completed in Fall 2017 with the completion of two U.S. Forest Service facilities – an administrative building and warehouse in Kernville, and a fire station in Lake Isabella – to replace the former facilities that sit in the project’s excavation footprint. 

Completed in 1953, Isabella Lake Dam is located approximately 40 miles northeast of Bakersfield. The reservoir is impounded by two earthen dams on the Kern River and Hot Springs Valley. Today, Isabella Lake and its dams reduce flood risk for Bakersfield and the surrounding region, and is a primary water source for water users throughout Kern County. The Isabella Lake Dam Safety Modification Project will address overtopping, seismic and seepage issues identified with Isabella Lake’s Main and Auxiliary dams to reduce the likelihood of dam failure.

In September 2017, the Corps awarded a $204 million contract to Flatiron/Dragados/Sukut Joint Venture of Benicia, California, to construct the modifications and the project is expected to be complete in 2022.


Rick Brown

Release no. 18-009