The Detroit and Big Cliff Dams

Detroit Dam

Detroit Dam
Photo Bob Heims, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The decade of the 1930’s was an era of large gov­ern­ment build­ing projects.  Many under­taken to counter the eco­nomic hard­ships of the Great Depres­sion.  The 1930’s also saw the pop­u­la­tion and indus­trial devel­op­ment in the North San­tiam Canyon finally reach lev­els that would eco­nom­i­cally jus­tify a flood con­trol project.  So the Detroit Dam com­plex, which includes Big Cliff Dam, was  autho­rized by the Flood Con­trol Act of 1938.  Con­struc­tion began in March 1949, sev­eral years after the Sec­ond World War and four years later in May 1953, the dam was finished.

Present Day Man­age­ment of River Flow

Today, the Army Corps of Engi­neers still man­age the dams to reduce the risk of flood­ing.  The Corps man­ages river flow by tim­ing the stor­age and release of water in Detroit Reser­voir dur­ing the rainy sea­son.  They hold more water in the reser­voir dur­ing high runoff times then release it grad­u­ally dur­ing dry months when the river run low and the dan­ger of flood­ing is past.   The Corps releases water from mid-April to the end of Novem­ber for:

  • power gen­er­a­tion
  • irri­ga­tion and
  • to improve water qual­ity and con­di­tions for migrat­ing and spawn­ing fish

Water stored in Detroit Reser­voir also sup­ports an eco­nom­i­cally impor­tant recre­ation industry.



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