Rebuilding Lake Wohlford Dam

Lake Wohlford Dam is an important water storage, flood control and recreational facility that has served Escondido for generations. Restoring storage capacity and making it earthquake-safe is critically important, which is why I introduced AB 692.

The dam was originally constructed in 1895 to store water transported via a wooden flume from the San Luis Rey River to Escondido. One of the first rock-fill dams in California, Lake Wohlford Dam was 76 feet high and had a storage capacity of about 3500 acre-feet.

But in 1916 the region was struck with one of our frequent droughts. San Diego hired a rain-maker named Charles Hatfield, who ultimately was blamed for creating a disastrous flood that killed dozens of people and caused several local dams to overflow, including Lake Wohlford. 

To avoid future floods, the dam was reinforced and its height was increased by 28 feet in 1924. But different materials were used, creating the problem we face today. The newer portion of the dam cannot withstand a major earthquake according to seismic tests conducted in 2007. The water level in Lake Wohlford has been reduced so that the older, earthquake-safe section of the dam is now holding back the lake, though with less storage capacity. The proposed fix involves building a new dam just west of the lake, and breaching the old dam to allow the lake to regain its 6,500 acre-feet storage capacity.

All this is very costly. Proposition 1E, the Disaster and Flood Prevention Bond Act of 2006, authorized bonds to finance disaster preparedness and flood prevention projects. Unfortunately, legal deadlines for funding passed and a legislative fix became necessary.

That’s where AB 692 comes in. The bill extends those deadlines to June 30, 2028. Restoring Lake Wohlford Dam is essential for our region, and AB 692 will help make that happen.