29 October 2015

A Carbon Canyon Dam/Reservoir Proposal from 1930-31

As the Boulder (now, Hoover) Dam project was being constructed in the early years of the Great Depression, the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) was scouting locations for a reservoir to store the immense amounts of water brought into the Los Angeles region from the east, specifically from Banning near Palm Springs to the Chino area.

As reported in the Chino Champion's edition of 9 May 1930, one potential site was Carbon Canyon.  The article began by observing that, "Carbon Canyon residents south of the summit may find themselves under many feet of water if . . . the proposal to construct a high dam at the county line is ultimately approved."

That's right--there was talk of actually flooding the canyon from where the summit is near today's Carriage Hills subdivision all the way to the Orange/San Bernardino counties line.  That meant that parts, or perhaps all, of the existing Mountain View Estates, off Canon Lane south of Carbon Canyon Road and Sleepy Hollow would have to have been condemned, while ranch lands elsewhere in what is now the Chino Hills side of the canyon would have been inundated.

An article from the Chino Champion discussing reported surveys for a dam and reservoir in the San Bernardino County portion of Catbon Canyon for water brought in to the Los Angeles metropolitan area from the impending Boulder Dam project.
Canyon residents reported seeing surveyors and engineers scouring the area to do their investigative work and it was claimed that, "the present plan, which is reported as being the most feasible advanced by engineers to date" would involve a dam fifty feet higher than one previously suggested for the lower end of the canyon.  This "lower end" would probably have been in close proximity to where the La Vida Mineral Springs resort was then thriving just east of today's Olinda Village.

However, the piece continued, "by bringing the dam site further to the north, just inside the San Bernardino county line, engineers state that a greater reservoir will be provided with the hills at [the] summit end providing the enclosure."  Moreover, the article went on, "thus all lands between [the] summit and the southern edge of Sleepy Hollow would be used in the formation of a huge lake to supply water to the cities of the metropolitan area."

The northern end of the body of water would have been on the ranch of Peter Chilobolast--this is what later became the ranch of Shelly Stoody, whose 1950s home is still on top of the hill just to the north of the summit, and, after Stoody's untimely death in a plane crash, Western Hills Country Club.  At the southern limit, the dam would have been built "just below the Tidwell store in Sleepy Hollow at the concrete bridge."  That store is now the building fronting Carbon Canyon Road at the east end of the neighborhood and south of the highway.  By concrete bridge, it is assumed this is where Carbon [Canyon] Creek crosses the road where the former liquor store building now stands.

After counseling the few readers who were living in the very sparsely-populated canyon not too worry any time soon because the Boulder/Hoover Dam project was years from being completed (1936 was when the dam was formally turned over to the federal government), the paper half-jokingly ended by stating, "we just pass the word along so that those who like to fish, swim and boat can dream about what may be in the years to come."

A 30 January 1931 piece in the Champion detailed competing proposals for a reservoir in Carbon Canyon and at Puddingstone near Pomona and San Dimas.
Months later, at the end of January 1931, another Champion article reported that there were two competing locations for the Boulder Dam reservoir, Carbon Canyon and Puddingstone reservoir near Pomona and San Dimas.  Surveyors were said to have been busily at work on both locations, with the Carbon Canyon crew following a route from Banning to Temescal Canyon and Corona.  Reiterating that the plan earlier on was to site the dam further down in the Orange County portion of the canyon, the article observed that the narrowness of the Brea section made anchoring the dam much more difficult.

Noting that the projected cost of the reservoir was just under $18 million, the paper stated that, "the cost of dam construction and purchase of properties in the canyon, which are now populated to a considerable extent" might make the cost at Carbon Canyon about the same as that at Puddingstone.  The Champion went on to suggest that, "from this discussion we gather that [the] final decision . . . is some time distant" and that "the project is of such magnitude that it will require years for completion."

Of course, there was no dam and reservoir built at Carbon Canyon, while Puddingstone's 250-acre reservoir, completed in 1928, still exists.  In recent years, the City of Industry was actively exploring a reservoir project for Tonner Canyon just to the north, an idea that had been investigated by the City of Pomona long before that.  Water, however, from Hoover Dam is piped down from the Inland Empire through Tonner and Carbon canyons before being treated at the Diemer plant on the hill overlooking the far west end of Chino Hills State Park and Yorba Linda.

Now, as we are in the midst of a prolonged drought that appears to be the worse in this region for several centuries, the movement to capture and store water is becoming a bigger issue.  It is interesting, though, to imagine what might have been if the dam and reservoir had been built in Carbon Canyon, especially as the 2008 earthquake centered just a short distance to the south revealed a new active fault previously unknown.

No comments: