In an unusual move necessitated by last week’s prodigious record-setting rainfall, Lake Hodges Reservoir this week opens its valves sending millions of gallons of water down the San Dieguito Riverbed towards the Pacific Ocean.
The city of San Diego, which owns the reservoir and dam, is sending about 923 million gallons of water from the reservoir down the old riverbed through Saturday. And, as they say when a submarine is diving, look out below.
“People in the area of the San Dieguito River Park and those in other areas along the river should take precautions,” said Jose Ysea, a city of San Diego spokesman.
For safety reasons, the California Division of Safety of Dams has determined that the water level at Hodges Reservoir should not exceed 295 feet, which is 20 feet below spillway elevation, Ysea said to City News Service. This requires periodic water releases from Hodges Reservoir.
The relentless, record-breaking storm drenched the county last week and delivered several inches of rain and snow. What was expected to be the final day of a slow-moving storm’s stint over San Diego County was awash with downed trees, flooded roads and dozens of crashes — one deadly — on Friday.
The last time city officials opened the floodgates was in lat March 2017. Facing a 3-storm onslaught in 10 days, the San Diego County Water Authority transferred water out of Lake Hodges for the first time to create room to capture rain and runoff from storms that moved into the region. The Water Authority said 7,500 acre-feet of water was transferred, enough to meet the annual needs of 15,000 single-family households.
Lake Hodges Dam actually overflowed in February-March 2011 — it also overflowed in February 2005. Prior to that, the lake overflowed in 1995 and in the early 1980s.
The 1995 spill event resulted in 150 horses from the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Showpark horse arena being evacuated from waist-deep water after heavy rains and a Hodges spill. Each spillover event attracted thousands to the bluffs overlooking the dam.
The 1980s overflow caused serious flooding because the mouth of the river hadn’t been cleared. It was cleared all along the water’s path after that.
When full, the reservoir has 1,234 surface acres, a maximum water depth of 115 feet and 27 shoreline miles. Hodges Reservoir has a water storage capacity of 30,251 acre-feet. Hodges Reservoir has a water storage capacity of 30,251 acre feet. Water levels are monitored weekly.
City officials will continue to monitor weather forecasts, rainfall and the water level at Hodges Reservoir to determine if additional water releases need to be planned for this year, Ysea said
The city is finalizing plans for improvements to Hodges Dam, Ysea said. The state has determined it safe with the restricted water level.
Hodges Reservoir was created with the building of Hodges Dam on San Dieguito Creek in 1918. Operated and maintained by the city’s Public Utilities Department, the reservoir serves the San Dieguito Water District and Santa Fe Irrigation District as well as the city.
Lake Hodges takes in runoff from all over San Diego County and, as such, the water contains lots of impurities. These are cleaned up in filtration plants before going out to the public.
The lake’s shoreline stretches for 27 miles, surrounding a pristine body of water that sinks as low as 115 feet deep. Its park just south of Escondido at Del Dios is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday.
This year, however, a new wrinkle was added to the dirty tale: A strange looking device called a Speece Cone that’s expected to improve the water quality at Hodges Reservoir near Escondido
It’s the only one of its kind in Southern California and no one will see it again for years.