How a public-private partnership removed a dam and restored a California river

This summer marked momentous developments for an intersector partnership in California.

A public-private partnership comprising local, state, and federal government agencies, environmentally focused non-profits, and a water company enabled cranes and excavators to begin the historic demolition of the San Clemente Dam in August of 2015.

The 106-foot-high, 94-year old San Clemente Dam has not provided residents of Monterey County with drinking water for more than 12 years, after accumulating 2.5 million cubic yards of sediment.

And the dam posed a risk to public safety: Potential collapse of the dam, in the situation of a large earthquake, threatened 1,500 homes and public buildings.

Businesses, government agencies, and non-profits pooled resources and expertise to carry out the largest dam removal in California’s history and the restoration of the Carmel River, once described as “a lovely little river” by John Steinbeck.

Through an intersector solution, a public safety threat was replaced with natural habitat revitalization, creating many beneficial outcomes for residents.

Myriad government agencies at all levels, non-profits, businesses, and the community worked together to create a healthier Monterey County. “It demonstrates that when public and private interests work together, benefits are realized far beyond what either could achieve alone,” writes the San Clemente Dam Removal and Carmel River Reroute Project.

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