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Dam Cams Show Dam Construction Work

Two webcams document construction work that’s critical for San Diego’s water supply.

by / January 6, 2012
A photo of San Diego's San Vicente dam taken by one of the dam's webcams. Photo courtesy of the San Diego County Water Authority.

Watching the construction of San Diego’s San Vicente dam raise in its entirety would take roughly four years. But with the help of webcams, viewers can literally watch the dam grow in a matter of minutes through a time-lapse video of still shots.

The San Vicente dam — a main source of water for the San Diego region — is currently under construction to be raised an additional 117 feet high. There’s online access to a compilation of photos showing the time lapse of the progress of the dam raise, according the San Diego County Water Authority.

“The value of this camera technology is that it helps the Water Authority document the historic record of this major construction project, while at the same time allowing members of the public to view its progress online,” said Water Authority Board Chair Michael T. Hogan, in a statement.

The Water Authority announced last month that two cameras by New York-based vendor Work Zone Cam were installed at different vantage points to take a photograph once every 30 minutes of the dam as layers of concrete are added to bring it to its new height of 337 feet. Through a partnership between the Water Authority and the city of San Diego, construction on the dam project began in 2009 and the anticipated completion date is 2013.

One camera is located on the right abutment of the dam and provides a bird’s eye view; the other is in the reservoir keeper’s house, an angle which looks straight toward the dam, said Kelly Rodgers, a project manager for the dam raise.

The cameras then wirelessly transmit the photos to a secured server at the Water Authority’s office where software is used to modify and compile the photos. From there, the software prepares the time lapse, Rodgers said. Because photos are coming in 24 hours a day, the water authority has selected only some photographed time frames to be posted online.

Only about a third of the photos taken by the webcams are posted to the site, said Gina Molise, a spokeswoman for the Water Authority.

The Water Authority didn’t want to have live-streaming video of the dam construction because those involved with implementing the technology didn’t feel a live video stream was secure enough, Rodgers said. Since the photos aren’t directly posted online from the cameras, the Water Authority can look over photos before anything is posted to the website.

More to Build

The dam construction is just one component of the Water Authority’s Emergency Storage Project, which will create new storage capacity and pipeline connections to deliver more water throughout the San Diego region in the event other water sources are disrupted.

In addition to the dam construction, a new marina will be constructed at the San Vicente Reservoir since the existing marina will be submerged due to the higher water level. Other construction is scheduled as well. The total project will cost $449 million, Rodgers said.

She said there’s significant public interest in watching the dam’s construction progress. Limited tours are available during the dam’s construction, and the surrounding reservoir is also closed for any recreation activities. With the reservoir temporarily closed, Rodgers said people are eager to see the project’s progress since they’d like access to the reservoir as soon as possible.

“This is a good tool for the public so they can see their dollars at work and the progress we’re making toward securing the region’s water supply,” Rodgers said.

According to the Water Authority, the reservoir won’t re-open for recreational use until sometime between 2014 and 2017.

Once completed, the San Vicente Reservoir will hold 342,000 acre-feet of water — more than doubling the reservoir’s storage capacity.


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Sarah Rich

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. She wrote for for Government Technology magazine from 2010 through 2013.

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