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Lake Hodges Closed for Summer Due to Dam Repair Project

If you live by Lake Hodges or drive by the area often, you’ve probably noticed something unusual – the low water levels and lack of any summer recreation.

“Usually the weekends are packed full of people with kayaks or fishing boats,” said Jeff Sigua, a frequent lake visitor.

Hodges Reservoir Will be Closed for Recreation During Five-Month Project

In the coming weeks, the City of San Diego will begin emergency repairs on the Lake Hodges Dam at the Hodges Reservoir in Escondido outside of Rancho Santa Fe.

During a recent inspection, the city identified areas in the dam wall that require repair and need be sealed. In order to complete the work, the water level of the reservoir needs to be lowered by about 18 feet from its current level to an elevation of 275 feet.

The repair project is expected to continue for an estimated five months.

Repair Work on Hodges Dam to Begin

As part of continuing efforts to maintain and invest in City of San Diego infrastructure, repair work starts within the next two weeks on Hodges Dam, at the Hodges Reservoir north of Rancho Bernardo.

“It’s been over a century since Hodges Dam was constructed, and we are making significant investments to maintain this vital asset,” said Alia Khouri, Deputy Chief Operating Officer.

Lake Hodges-Hodges Reservoir-Hodges Dam

Repair Work on Hodges Dam to Begin

As part of continuing efforts to maintain and invest in City of San Diego infrastructure, repair work starts within the next two weeks on Hodges Dam, at the Hodges Reservoir north of Rancho Bernardo.

“It’s been over a century since Hodges Dam was constructed, and we are making significant investments to maintain this vital asset,” said Alia Khouri, Deputy Chief Operating Officer. “Projects like this one are crucial for the City’s aging infrastructure system in order to maintain the safe and efficient delivery of City services.”

During a recent inspection, staff identified areas in the dam wall that require repair and need to be sealed. To access these areas, the water level of the reservoir needs to be lowered by approximately 18 feet from its current level to an elevation of 275 feet. The reservoir may need to be lowered below 275 feet if additional areas needing repair are identified during the project. The repair project is expected to continue for an estimated five months.

Water transfers to maximize savings

The Hodges Dam, shown here in 1929, was built in 1918. Photo: UCSD

The Hodges Dam, shown here in 1929, was built in 1918. Photo: UC San Diego

The primary function of Hodges Reservoir is to store water for potable use. The City is working with its regional water agency partners on a plan to draw down the reservoir level to maximize water savings. Most, if not all, of the water will be transferred to other reservoirs, while some water may be released into the San Dieguito River.

“The City of San Diego is committed to maintaining Hodges Dam to ensure the protection of our water resources and public enjoyment of the reservoir,” said Juan Guerreiro, Interim Director of the City’s Public Utilities Department. “We appreciate the public’s patience while we complete the project.”

To access areas of the Hodges Dam for repairs, the water level of the reservoir needs to be lowered by approximately 18 feet from its current level to an elevation of 275 feet. As a result of the lower water level, the Hodges Reservoir will be closed for recreation while the repair project is underway. Boating and fishing will still be available at other City of San Diego reservoirs. The San Dieguito River Park trails and facilities around Hodges Reservoir will not be impacted during the drawdown or dam construction work.

Operated and maintained by the San Diego Public Utilities Department, the reservoir currently serves the San Diego County Water Authority, San Dieguito Water District, and Santa Fe Irrigation District, and the City of San Diego. San Diego operates nine reservoirs, including Hodges.

(Editor’s note: The City of San Diego, San Dieguito Water District, and the Santa Fe Irrigation District are three of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

San Diego Launches $10-Million Assessment of Aging City Dams, Including Three Rated ‘Poor’

San Diego is launching a $10-million effort to complete risk assessments of all nine of the city’s aging dams — only three of which are considered in satisfactory condition. City officials say the assessments are expected to reveal problems that will require an estimated $1 billion in repairs and upgrades in coming decades — and possibly some replacement dams in extreme cases. San Diego’s dams are among the oldest in the state and the nation. State officials said three dams are in “poor” condition — Hodges, El Capitan and Lower Otay — and three have been rated “fair”: Morena, Barrett and Lake Murray.

Lower Water Levels Impacting Grebes’ Mating Habits at Lake Hodges

San Diego has over 500 different species of bird that migrate though or live here. One of the more unusual is Grebes. “[They are] white birds with a black neck and head and very red eyes,” said Brian Caldwell. Caldwell is a naturalist that guides tours at Lake Hodges and said water level changes nesting.

Lake Hodges Water Levels Dry Up Prospects for Grebes

For years, pairs of grebes would zoom across the water at Lake Hodges in a dazzling mating dance, and then build their nests on mats of dried brush suspended above the waterline.

Reservoir Keeper Viviana Castellon shared her expertise with citizens as part of the City’s #AskAnExpert series on Instagram. Photo: City of San Diego/Instagram

San Diegans #AskAnExpert Reservoir Recreation Questions

Reservoir Keeper Viviana Castellon shared her expertise with citizens during the City of San Diego’s #AskAnExpert series on Instagram as part of the City’s community outreach to citizens. The City regularly offers the opportunity for the public to ask employees about its services including parks, libraries, streets, and water.

“We find that it’s a great way to get general information about City services to the public,” said Arian Collins, public information officer with the San Diego Public Utilities Department.

Castellon answered several questions about the recreation offered at the City’s lakes and reservoirs.

Can you rent boats at City of San Diego reservoirs?

Yes, the reservoirs do have boat rentals through the concessionaires. You can view the hours of operation and rentals fees online.

Social media outreach gives City of San Diego residents access to experts like Reservoir Keeper Viviana Castellano. Photo: City of San Diego/Instagram

Social media outreach gives City of San Diego residents access to experts like Reservoir Keeper Viviana Castellano. Photo: City of San Diego/Instagram

Is stand-up paddleboarding allowed at any City of San Diego reservoir?

Yes, Hodges Reservoir offers stand-up paddleboarding on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday from the beginning of February through the end of October.

Can you swim at City of San Diego reservoirs?

No. What are commonly referred to as the San Diego City lakes are actually impounding reservoirs that are part of the City’s municipal water-supply system. The State Water Resources Control Board approves the different recreational activities that can occur on our reservoirs and swimming is not included in our current domestic water supply recreational permit.

Can you water ski at the City of San Diego reservoirs?

Yes, San Vicente Reservoir offers water-skiing and wakeboarding from May through October Thursday through Sunday.

Residents who would like to keep up with the latest information about the City’s reservoirs and lakes as well as other City of San Diego services can learn more at the City of San Diego website, as well as follow the City’s Instagram account for more #AskAnExpert opportunities.

Reservoirs Begin Reopening to Recreational Use Countywide

City of San Diego lakes and reservoirs previously closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic are now in the process of reopening for public recreation.

El Capitan Reservoir and Upper Otay Reservoir reopened on June 6. San Vicente Reservoir will open to the public June 13.

Three reservoirs will re-open in July: Lake Hodges on July 1, Sutherland on July 3, and Barrett on July 8.

Miramar, Murray, and Lower Otay Reservoirs have opened in mid-May.

The San Vicente Reservoir boat dock will welcome visitors again starting June 13. Photo: City of San Diego reservoirs begin reopening

Reservoirs Begin Reopening to Recreational Use Countywide

City of San Diego lakes and reservoirs previously closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic are now in the process of reopening for public recreation.

“A lot of San Diegans have a passion for fishing and boating, and we’ve been able to partner with the County [of San Diego] to reopen all of our lakes and reservoirs to the public,” said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

El Capitan Reservoir and Upper Otay Reservoir reopened on June 6. San Vicente Reservoir will open to the public June 13.

Three reservoirs will re-open in July: Lake Hodges on July 1, Sutherland on July 3, and Barrett on July 8.

Miramar, Murray, and Lower Otay Reservoirs have opened in mid-May.

Standup paddleboarding will return to Lake Hodges on Saturday, July 1. Photo: City of San Diego reservoirs begin reopening

Standup paddleboarding is available at Lake Hodges on Saturday, July 1. Photo: City of San Diego

New safety and cleaning protocols initiated with the re-openings in May will remain in place at all reservoirs. The reservoirs will be open during regular business hours for walking, jogging, cycling, fishing, and boating. Normal fishing and boating fees will apply.

“As we have seen from the thousands of calls, emails, and letters to City Hall, fishing is more than a hobby, it’s a passion,” said San Diego City Councilmember Scott Sherman. “Our lakes and reservoirs are too important of a recreational asset to keep closed and I am thankful they will be opened soon.”

For more information, go to https://www.sandiego.gov/coronavirus

Lake Jennings reopens for recreation and fishing June 13

TCatfish are being restocked this week in Lakes 3 and 6 at Santee Lakes for happy fishermen. Photo: Courtesy Santee Lakes/Padre MWD

Catfish are being restocked this week in Lakes 3 and 6 at Santee Lakes for happy fishermen. Photo: Courtesy Santee Lakes/Padre Dam MWD

Lake Jennings in Lakeside, operated by the Helix Water District, will also reopen for recreation and day-use on Saturday, June 13. Hours are limited to weekends from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fishing and day-use visitors must wear masks and adhere to social distancing. The Bait and Tackle Shop will be open with restrictions. Shore fishing and private boat launching are available, but no boat rentals, night fishing, or fish stocking at this time.

In addition, Lake Jennings recently reopened for camping on June 5 with restrictions in place limiting use to every other campsite, and only by members of the same household. See the complete list of restrictions at the Lake Jennings website.

“We are thrilled to be able to reopen in compliance with the County regulations,” said Kira Haley, Lake Jennings recreation manager. “We really appreciate your understanding in this difficult time while we continue to work hard to keep our community safe.”

The public will be asked to observe COVID-19 preventative measures, including mandates requiring face coverings and physical distancing.

Santee Lakes, operated by the Padre Dam Municipal Water District, expanded recreational use including fishing with some restrictions on May 16. All activities with physical distancing are allowed including jogging, bike riding, roller-skating. A facial covering is not required during physical activities but must be in your possession. Physical distancing and possession of a facial covering are required while fishing. The lake’s campsites have remained open throughout the pandemic, but campers must practice social and physical distancing while on site.

County of San Diego to help cover costs

The cost of reopening the City of San Diego’s additional reservoirs is approximately $1 million. Funding identified through a tentative cost-sharing agreement with the County of San Diego will be limited to covering enhanced staffing costs for ensuring public health is maintained in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both the City Council and San Diego County Board of Supervisors will need to approve the agreement.