It’s obvious that I’m no expert on the construction of dams, nor their usage.

So neither my support nor my opposition to the large dam proposed northwest of Patterson is of consequence. None whatsoever.

The proposal – to serve farmers with water in dry years – is being made by the Del Puerto Irrigation District. The dam across Del Puerto Creek would be privately owned.

But some factual things do matter and should be understood.

First, the safety of the 260-foot-tall dam will be determined by appropriate governmental agencies from the State of California on down. Yes, we are in an earthquake area and that must be considered. It certainly will be, although that guarantee may not satisfy all residents below the dam. However, the major dam failure in Southern California that took hundreds of lives was over 90 years ago. Safety regulations have been greatly strengthened in recent times.

Should the 800-acre dam be breached, most of the water would flow to the north of our city. That’s after it somehow got around the freeway, California Aqueduct and Delta-Mendota Canal. Not reassuring to all, but a fact just the same. And those governmental agencies having an interest in the freeway and both canals will surely take a hard look at the safety issue of a dam just above them.

Will Patterson-area homeowners be required to purchase flood insurance? I’m told they will not.

Then there’s the scenic and geological value of the canyon itself. That isn’t going to change, at least not beyond the first couple of miles into the hills. It would be required to replace three or four miles of roadway leading up the canyon with a connection from the Diablo Grande Parkway, and that move might make it even more scenic to motorists.

But it should be noted that that canyon property on both sides of the canyon roadway are in private ownership. The first public property is some 12 miles up the canyon -- the county’s Minniear day-use area. It certainly will be unchanged by construction of a dam, nor will the county’s Frank Raines Park campgrounds be effected in any manner.

The dam is being proposed so that West Side agriculturalists can reap the irrigation benefits. They’ll also pay the cost.

When my family was younger, we put the beautiful canyon to considerable use. So did many others. I wouldn’t want it destroyed in any way.

For that reason, I’ve always opposed the idea of a new freeway running from Patterson to San Jose. That certainly would destroy our canyon.


Persons of Maturity surely remember when we all had TV antennas on our roofs. Where I came from, that started in the late 1940s when we first used rabbit ears inside the house.


Question: In these days leading up to the Super Bowl, what possibly could push that event out of the spotlight?

Answer: Obviously, the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others in Southern California.


A friend recently sent me this definition of camping:

Where you spend a small fortune to live like a homeless person.

Ron Swift is editor/publisher emeritus of the Patterson Irrigator. He can be reached at

PI editor/publisher emeritus

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