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Project Groundbreaking

Contact Information

For more information on the
Tule River Spillway
Enlargement Project,
please contact us at the following:

Phone:
916-557-5100

Email:
spk-pao@usace.army.mil 

Mailing Address:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
Sacramento District
Tule River Spillway
Enlargement Project
1325 J Street, Room 1513
Sacramento, CA 95814

Tule River Spillway Enlargement Project

Schafer Dam (formerly Success Dam) is located on the Tule River, about five miles east and upstream of the town of Porterville, Tulare County, California. Schafer is an earthen dam 145 feet (44 meters) tall and 3,490 feet (1,060 meters) long. The dam and reservoir were authorized as part of the Tule River Project under the Flood Control Act of 1944 and construction was completed in 1961. The reservoir provides flood risk management, water storage and recreation benefits to the local area.

The dam was built using design standards that were current at the time of construction, and built well. Seismic reanalysis that began in 1992 indicated that the alluvial (loose soil or sediment) foundation underlying the dam is susceptible to liquefaction, which in a major earthquake could cause the dam to fail.

In 1999, Congress authorized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study how to address seismic risk to the dam. The study revealed additional concerns about seepage and overtopping, requiring further study and funding authorizations. In late 2006, the Corps began limiting the amount of water stored in Success Lake to minimize flood risk to the public while the Corps studied the dam and developed a solution.

New requirements and modifications to the Corps’ dam evaluation process since 2004 required additional analysis and a new type of report. Upon completion of this report in 2010, the Corps’ national dam safety program required the district to perform a baseline risk assessment - a comprehensive analysis of all the dam’s safety risks using the same methods now being applied to Corps dams throughout the nation. This re-evaluation demonstrated that the risk associated with liquefaction (dam failure during an earthquake) and seepage is significantly less than early study results indicated, and the Corps approved April 11, 2014, raising the operating restriction of the reservoir behind Schafer Dam to the maximum authorized storage capacity of 82,291 acre-feet, or a storage elevation of 652.5 feet.

When commissioned in 1961, the dam was named Success Dam, but was renamed on October 1, 2019 to Richard L. Schafer Dam. Schafer remains an integral and active member of the Central Valley water community, serving as an active participant on numerous water boards and providing consultation for 13 different water management organizations. For the last 20 years, Schafer has spearheaded the local effort to partner with the Corps of Engineers to increase water storage in Success Lake.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Schafer Dam is not in danger of imminent failure and is regularly inspected and monitored. The primary concern is overtopping in a huge flood and the public would get notice far in advance of this happening.

The Tule River Spillway Enlargement Project includes widening the spillway an additional 165 feet, making the spillway approximately 365 feet wide, and constructing a 10-foot-high concrete Ogee Weir across the spillway, which will increase the reservoir pool by 28,000 acre-feet for joint-use flood control and irrigation water storage space.

When the project is complete, Success Lake’s storage capacity will be 110,300 acre-feet of water.

To accommodate the modified spillway, USACE will relocate the paved access road that currently passes through the spillway and  will armor a bridged section of California Highway 190 where it passes over the lake to account for the increased pool levels.

In 2018, it was announced that the Tule River Spillway Enlargement Project would be one of five Sacramento District projects to receive supplemental funding through Public Law 115-123 to fund short-term repair projects and long-term disaster recovery projects. With the addition of supplemental funding, the project is funded to completion.

Construction on the project began in August 2020 and is expected to be compete in 2023.

Access current reservoir status, monthly reports and historical water data since 1990 at http://www.spk-wc.usace.army.mil/. From the homepage, select “Midnight Reservoir Status”, then “COE”.

Overtopping is the main threat that could cause the dam to fail. Overtopping results from a huge, although rare, flood (about a 1/13,000 probability in any year) that could fill the reservoir too quickly, leading to overtopping and erosion of the dam. During this extremely rare flood event, Schafer Dam is not tall enough to store such a high volume of water.

Through rigorous engineering analysis and investigation completed in 2017, seismic and seepage risks have recently been determined to be minimal concerns and Schafer Dam was reclassified to a lower risk classification, allowing the Tule River Spillway Enlargement Project to move forward.

Construction activities on the Tule River Spillway Enlargement Project began in August 2020 and are expected to be complete in 2023.

Projects to fix or make improvements to existing infrastructure like we're doing at Success Lake are often more complicated and take longer than building new infrastructure. Technical investigations and analysis of the geology, weather patterns, and environmental concerns needed to plan a major project like a dam upgrade take years and require review by regional and national Corps experts, as well as experts outside of the agency.

Study progress also depends on steady funding, which is not always guaranteed.

Additionally, Corps technical standards and policies evolve with advances in science, engineering and technology, and occasionally require reconsideration of studies that are already in progress to ensure that projects are built to the most modern specifications.

While lengthy, this deliberate process is designed to ensure that recommended projects make the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars and provide the most long-term public benefit.

Contract Opportunities

Opportunity Status Award Date Posted On Response Date 
Construction - Phase II Open   June 3, 2021 July 8, 2021
Construction - Phase I Awarded May 2020