Photos and story by Jeffrey Callison, Assistant Secretary
CDCR Office of Public and Employee Communications

Hundreds of thousands of people in Sacramento are safer now thanks to a massive new flood-control structure at Folsom Dam – and CDCR helped make it happen.

The new auxiliary spillway allows for the earlier release of water from Folsom Lake if the reservoir is rising too high. The gates in the spillway are about 50 feet lower than the gates on Folsom Dam.

While CDCR did not move dirt or pour concrete for the spillway, we did provide nearby land for a much-needed staging area. For five years, the federal agencies leading the spillway project, and the contractors doing the physical work, used land on the south side of Folsom State Prison for their offices and vehicles.

Deborah Hysen, CDCR’s Director of Facility Planning, Construction and Management, said we were approached because there was no other available, usable land so close to the spillway construction site.

“(We) recognized the importance of acting as a responsible land steward and good neighbor by agreeing to allow the use of CDCR’s property throughout the duration of the project,” she said. “In exchange, Folsom State Prison’s perimeter was improved to include widened access roads and fencing benefiting CDCR’s operations.”

The prison staging area took up approximately 15 acres, right next to the Folsom Lake Crossing Bridge. The land there is generally hilly and not otherwise much used by CDCR. Hysen said it is essentially a buffer between the prison’s perimeter and the public road.

“Throughout the project’s duration, the project team helped to maintain site security through additional fencing, patrols, cameras and elevated surveillance towers to further enhance our secure operations,” Director Hysen said. “The land will return to use as a buffer space separating prison operations from the general public.”

Work on the spillway started almost 10 years ago with excavation work to the east of the dam down to the American River. In all, 3.8 million cubic yards of rock and soil were moved. The construction started in 2011, and used some 30 million pounds of steel and 300,000 cubic yards of concrete. The excavation work was managed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; the construction work by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The spillway resembles a gigantic chute through which water can safely pour down into the river. Some of the same public- and private-sector partners that worked on the Folsom Dam spillway are also building a better spillway than the one that failed last winter in Oroville.

The cost of the Folsom Dam spillway was approximately $900 million. More than half-a-million people downstream are now at considerably less risk of catastrophic flooding. CDCR’s role in the project was acknowledged at the start of Tuesday’s grand opening by Col. David Ray, Commander of the Sacramento District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.