Grant funding of nearly $3.5 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will allow Phase 1 of a rehabilitation project at Vail Dam to begin immediately, the Rancho California Water District (Rancho Water) has announced.

The grant will fund up to 75% of Phase 1 of the Vail Dam Hazard Mitigation project which includes pre-construction activities such as design, environmental compliance, and permitting to upgrade the dam at Vail Lake located east of Temecula.

Vail Lake, a reservoir with water storage capacity of approximately 45,000 acre-feet, was acquired by Rancho Water in 1978 and is an essential component of Rancho’s diversified water supply portfolio for providing reliable and affordable water supplies to over 150,000 urban and agricultural water users in the cities of Temecula and Murrieta, and the surrounding areas. 

Vail Dam, originally built in 1949, is a 152ft high concrete arch dam which provides a significant portion of the District’s annual water supply, drought storage capacity formrecharge to the downstream groundwater basin, and an emergency water supply to Rancho Water’s service area. The dam also captures local rainfall before it flows to the ocean providing a key local source of water. The water stored in the dam is then used to recharge the groundwater aquifer where it can be used during future dry periods, providing a critical drought-resilient supply for the community. In addition, Vail Dam provides downstream flood control protection for the city of Temecula and the US Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

A recent study by the California Department of Water Resources Division of Safety of Dams (DSOD) showed Vail Dam needed to be rehabilitated to meet updated seismic and hydrologic safety standards. The grant from FEMA for $3,484,485 will fund Phase 1 of the rehabilitation project with a comprehensive geotechnical investigation, preliminary design report (PDR), and design drawings for a new roller-compacted concrete dam directly downstream of the current dam. The project will be completed in two phases over the next four years and will result in a state-of-the-art dam with a renewed lifespan of 75-100 years.

“We are excited and grateful to FEMA for selecting Rancho Water’s grant application for funding. The funding will support the critical rehabilitation of Vail Dam and secure the local water supply that our neighbours rely heavily on for affordable, safe drinking water,” said Carol Lee Gonzales-Brady, Rancho Water Board President. “By maintaining the dam, we preserve the water storage reservoir at Vail Lake which decreases our need for imported water, increases drought resiliency, and reduces the cost that our customers pay for the high-quality water services that Rancho Water is able to offer.”

Pending the completion of Phase 1, an additional grant from FEMA of approximately $45 million is anticipated for construc6on of the dam. Completion of Phase 1 is expected by late 2022. Phase 2 of the Vail Dam Hazard Mitigation Project is expected to begin in late 2022 and completion of construction is anticipated in mid-2025.