Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions2021-06-16T17:39:33-07:00

Disclaimer: Information about the Whittier Narrows Dam Safety Modification Project is constantly evolving and subject to change based on project updates from the USACE.

Have additional questions that are not answered here? You can submit questions through the Contact form.

Background and Purpose

What is the Whittier Narrows Dam Safety Modification Project?2021-06-17T12:50:03-07:00

The construction of the Whittier Narrows Dam and Reservoir was completed in 1957 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to assist with flood control and water conservation. The USACE has determined that the Whittier Narrows Dam poses a very high risk of failure thereby exposing 25 cities and up to 1.1 million people to potentially catastrophic flooding. To repair the dam and prevent catastrophic failures, the USACE will be completing the Whittier Narrows Dam Safety Modification Project (Project). Funded by the federal government, the $385 million, multi-year effort is expected to complete construction in 2026. 

Why are these improvements needed?2021-03-18T11:49:29-07:00

During severe weather events or seasons of heavy rain, the two rivers that surround the City of Pico Rivera — the San Gabriel River and the Rio Hondo River — flow into the Whittier Narrows Reservoir to help prevent the two rivers from flooding into Pico Rivera neighborhoods and communities beyond.

The federal government has identified the Whittier Narrows Dam as the highest priority of the 13 highest risk dams in the United States. If the dam were to fail, it could flood up to 25 cities in the region, from Pico Rivera all the way to Long Beach. Impacts of such a catastrophic event may include significant loss of life, damage to property, and major economic and environmental consequences.

What are the benefits of this project?2021-03-30T11:49:47-07:00

The Whittier Narrows Dam is currently at risk of failing in one of three ways: 1) backward erosion of the foundation, 2) overtopping, or 3) the premature opening of the spillway gates (click here for visuals of what each of these scenarios looks like). This project will implement improvements and needed repairs to help avoid these potential dam failures and prevent associated catastrophes.

Is the City of Pico Rivera leading this project?2021-03-18T15:37:30-07:00

No, the City of Pico Rivera is not leading this project as it falls outside of the City’s jurisdiction. The entire project is under federal government control. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Los Angeles District constructed and operates the Whittier Narrows Dam and Reservoir and much of the surrounding land is also federal property. Therefore, this project is being fully led and directed by the USACE.

What is the cost of this project and how is it being funded?2021-03-30T11:51:46-07:00

The total estimated cost of the project is approximately $385 million. It will be federally funded and, to date, Congress has approved the allocation of $192.5 million to the project through the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill. The remaining balance will be allocated in future federal budgets on a year-to-year basis. 

Impacts of Project and Construction Activities

What are the main impacts of this project on nearby community neighborhoods and the City as a whole?2021-03-18T15:38:03-07:00

Despite the significant benefits of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) repairing the dam, the following project impacts are expected for the Pico Rivera community:

  • Since 1956, the City of Pico Rivera has leased federal land around the project area to provide recreation facilities for the community. Unfortunately, the Project will significantly disrupt local amenities including the Pico Rivera Golf Club, Streamland Park and the Pico Rivera Sports Arena.
  • Road modifications to portions of Lincoln Avenue and Rosemead Boulevard.
  • Typical construction inconveniences such as noise, vibrations and increased traffic in the area.

Please see the following FAQs for more information on the disruption to recreational facilities and road modifications. As construction nears, this page will also be updated with more construction-specific information.

How will this project impact the Pico Rivera Golf Club?2021-06-17T14:53:55-07:00

The Pico Rivera Golf Club will be impacted by the project due to construction activities and necessary dam repairs. The golf course will first experience partial closures, followed by a full closure. While the City has been attempting to clarify the details of the forthcoming disruptions with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), currently the following known impacts include:

  • Beginning April 15, 2021: The golf course will experience partial and intermittent closures to holes 5-8 and the driving range to accommodate land surveys, testing and other activities conducted by the USACE and their contractors. All activities will be communicated in advance to allow timely notification to the golf course vendor and patrons.
  • Beginning September 7, 2021: In preparation for utility relocation work beginning in October 2021, holes 5-8, as well as the driving range, will be fenced and closed indefinitely. The banquet hall and restaurant will remain open to the public. Other areas of the golf course may remain open but that is to be determined.
  • Beginning January 15, 2022: The USACE will require intermittent access to the remainder of the golf course for testing, measuring and other activities, which may require occasional partial closures of the golf course. All activities will be communicated in advance to allow timely notification to the golf course vendor and patrons.
  • October 2022: The entire golf course will close to accommodate construction activities required for USACE to repair the dam; additionally, the footprint of the dam will be expanded by approximately 200 feet into the golf course.

There is a possibility that the Club House and parking lot may be available for use during construction; however, this has not been confirmed and the use has not yet been determined.

Since the Pico Rivera Golf Club, Club House and parking lot sits on federally-owned land, it is unknown whether the City would be permitted to lease the remaining land again for the community’s recreational use once the project is complete; however, the City is actively coordinating with the USACE to pursue this option.

How will this project impact Streamland Park?2021-03-30T11:59:57-07:00

Streamland Park will be impacted by the project due to construction activities and necessary dam repairs. While the City has been attempting to clarify the details of the forthcoming disruptions to Streamland Park with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), currently the following known impacts include:

  • Now through September 2022: Streamland Park will be closed intermittently for soil testing, contractor site visits and other activities by the USACE.
  • October 2022: The park will be fully closed due to construction activities and necessary dam repairs. Once the project is complete, the widening of the dam will cause the park to lose 92% of its land including the basketball courts and baseball fields.

There may be an opportunity for some of the park, which is on federally-owned land, to again be leased by the City of Pico Rivera for recreational use by the community once the project is complete; these negotiations are ongoing with the USACE.

How will this project impact Bicentennial Park & the Sports Arena?2021-06-17T14:56:50-07:00

Bicentennial Park & the Sports Arena will be impacted by the project due to construction activities and necessary dam repairs. While the City has been attempting to clarify the details of the forthcoming disruptions to the area with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), currently the following known impacts include:

  • January 15, 2022: Bicentennial Park & the Sports Arena will be closed intermittently for soil testing, contractor site visits and other activities by the USACE.
  • October 2022: Bicentennial Park and Sports Arena Drive / Rooks Road will be closed indefinitely and unavailable for public use. The loss of this primary access point to the Sports Arena will impact operations as an entertainment venue. The full extent of impacts is currently unknown.

Based on the proximity to the neighboring unincorporated community of Los Angeles County, the City of Pico Rivera is engaging the Los Angeles County Departments of Fire, Public Works, Parks & Recreation and the Sheriff’s to assess the impacts. The City is also engaging Metro and Caltrans to help evaluate traffic impacts in the area. The future use of this entire area is still being discussed and negotiated between the City of Pico Rivera and the USACE.

How will this project impact the San Gabriel River Bike Path?2021-03-24T09:23:30-07:00

The San Gabriel River Bike Path will be impacted to accommodate construction activities on the Whittier Narrows Dam. While the extent of these impacts are not currently known, more information will be added to this page as details become available. The City has requested that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) set up bike detours to mitigate the inconvenience closures will have for local and regional bicyclists. However, to date, it is unclear what the outcome of these requests will be.

How will this project impact nearby local streets?2021-03-19T16:56:37-07:00

Small sections of Lincoln Avenue and Rosemead Boulevard that run parallel to the immediate project area (see map) will be raised by 6 feet. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is not anticipating having to completely shut down the streets throughout the course of the project and will, instead, work on these street modifications in sections by temporarily narrowing the streets.

What mitigation measures will be implemented to address project impacts?2021-03-30T12:04:56-07:00

While construction-related inconveniences will be addressed and mitigated as appropriate, Pico Rivera will also suffer long-term impacts associated with this project: the City will lose 131 acres, or approximately 67% of its available recreational acreage. Additionally, the City of Pico Rivera already has one of the smallest park land per resident ratio in Los Angeles County, exacerbating the situation.

The City of Pico Rivera has spent years attempting to lobby the federal government and to collaborate with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to come up with a vision that would mitigate the impacts of the project and return key community assets to the public once the project is completed. Those efforts have not yielded a commitment by the USACE or the federal government to return recreational facilities back to the City of Pico Rivera once the project is complete. Visit the City’s Efforts to Mitigate Impacts page to learn more about the City’s efforts.

When will construction start and how long will it last?2021-03-30T12:06:16-07:00

Utility relocation is currently scheduled to begin October 2021 and construction activities related to repairs of the Whittier Narrows Dam is expected to begin October 2022. Construction is tentatively expected to be complete in the year 2026, barring any unforeseen issues.

Community Engagement

Will the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) be holding any community meetings?2021-03-18T12:02:51-07:00

Yes, the USACE will also be holding a public meeting related to environmental document updates in Summer 2021. The City will post the meeting information on this website as soon as it is available.

How can I get involved?2021-06-17T14:59:15-07:00

Projects like the Whittier Narrows Dam Safety Project are rare, but they create an opportunity to make transformational changes. The City encourages residents and those in neighboring cities to communicate comments and concerns related to this project to your representatives. Visit our City’s Efforts to Mitigate Impacts page to learn more about the City’s efforts and Contact page to learn how to connect with our federal, state and local representatives.

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