On Quality of Life: Earthquakes; Lake Isabella Dam

Mar 29, 2011

California is known worldwide as a state especially prone to earthquakes. The 1994 Northridge quake and the 1989 Loma Prieta quake are still fresh in the mind of many Californians. But deep in California's Central Valley, far from the San Andreas, and the state's major population centers, what are the risks to residents and our infrastructure? In our first segment we talk with Dr. Stephen Lewis, Associate Professor of Geophysics at Fresno State about the relative risk the Valley faces from earthquakes, and past events like the two quakes that struck Kern County in 1952, and the 1983 Coalinga earthquake. We also talk with several longtime Valley residents who survived those earthquakes.

In our second segment, we look at the specific issues facing Lake Isabella Dam. Completed in 1953, for years it has served the flood control, irrigation, recreation and hydroelectric needs of Kern County. But in recent years, the earthen dam has become a source of concern, due to water seepage, an undersized spillway, and perhaps most importantly, the discovery that the upper dam was built on top of an active fault. David Serafini of the US Army Corps of Engineers, joins us to describe the problems, and what the Corps is doing to fix the dam.

In our final segment we talk with two guests from the County of Kern, Georgianna Armstrong, Emergency Services Manager, Kern County and Chuck Lackey, Director of the Engineering, Surveying & Permit Services Department. We learn about the steps the county has taken to alert citizens in the event of a disaster, including the "worst-case" scenario of a dam failure, and what the county has done to make buildings safer in the event of an earthquake.