The Turlock Irrigation District is running one dam safe operation, thanks to new Chief Dam Safety Engineer Peggy Harding.
Harding's hiring has its roots in a May 3, 2012 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission decision which required dam owners to develop a safety program. The lack of such a program had contributed to some incidents in the past, FERC said.
TID filed a safety plan for Don Pedro Dam with FERC on Nov. 1, 2012. And on March 19, the district signed a resolution reaffirming its commitment to safety – and hired Harding, who has 30 years of experience in dam safety.
Harding started with TID in June, and led FERC officials on an inspection of Don Pedro Dam on the very same day.
“My job is to consolidate all dam and dam-related functions under one position,” explained Harding.
So far, Harding has conducted independent safety reviews of all TID dams – Don Pedro, LaGrange, Dawson, and Turlock Lake. All were found to be in acceptable condition, and safe for continued operation.
That doesn't mean TID can't improve conditions, though. Harding is tracking a list of action items to improve safety, ranging from vegetation control on smaller dikes to containing rockfalls above the Don Pedro powerhouse.
Harding is also at work on an emergency action plan for the district, and a training course for dam operators to understand what to do when things go wrong.
And there's yet more work to be done. Harding hopes to establish a formal safety program for TID's smaller dams, and conduct a thorough review of the design and performance of all dams in the system.
But so far, the new dam safety effort is off to a good start, TID Director Rob Santos said.
“I think you're doing a dam good job,” Santos said.
On Tuesday, the TID Board of Directors also:
• In closed session, authorized General Manager Casey Hashimoto to negotiate for property at 900 N. Palm St., the site of the former Turlock Police Station, the Turlock War Memorial, and the Brandon Koch Memorial Skate Park.
• Dissolved the Inzana-Tomlinson Pipeline improvement district.