This summer, Southern California Edison (SCE) was gracious enough to let a group of Cal Poly Pomona civil engineering students – along with Cal Poly professor and local legend Dixon Davis – tag along on a series of dam inspections east of the Sierras. The inspections included visits to Gem Lake, Lake Sabrina, Lake Sabrina, and six others. With stretches of hiking, boating, camping, and even a ride on a 100-year-old tram car, this trip was an adventure as much as it was a priceless learning experience. We were able to follow inspector Bill from the Department of Safety of Dams (DSOD) on his investigation of a series of arch, gravity, and wood-faced dams. Bill was patient and gracious enough to break down what he looked for in a dam including, but not limited to: growing amounts of leakage, tears in a dam liner, sinkholes near the upstream toe of the dam, and others. His interface with Mr. Stoessel from SCE allowed us to catch a rare glimpse into the complex relationship between a regulatory agency and the company being investigated. We were even able to turn the wheels and open the valves to a few of the dams – no easy task since these wheels work with primitive gears and have been around for almost 100 years!
On behalf of the Cal Poly Pomona chapter of CalGeo I would like to extend a great thanks to Prof. Dixon and to John Stoessel of Southern California Edison for giving us the opportunity to take in some of the majestic sights of the eastern Sierras and take part in an educational trip the likes of which we may never get the chance to embark on again.