City releases water from Hodges Reservoir

The Hodges Dam reservoir filled quickly due to April's rains.

Due to recent heavy rainfall, the City of San Diego released approximately 923 million gallons of water from the Hodges Reservoir into the San Dieguito River. The water release via valves in the dam began on April 11 about 11 a.m. and continued for approximately seven days until the reservoir elevation is near 295 feet.

For safety reasons, in 2019 the California Division of Safety of Dams determined that the water level at Hodges Reservoir should not exceed 295 feet, which is 20 feet below spillway elevation. This requires periodic water releases from Hodges Reservoir.

Hodges Reservoir was created with the building of Hodges Dam on San Dieguito Creek back in 1918. Operated and maintained by San Diego’s Public Utilities Department, the reservoir currently serves the San Dieguito Water District, Santa Fe Irrigation District and the city. For the release on Easter weekend, all of the agencies had to work together.

“It was very successful coordination given that we had to react and respond quickly due to the tremendous increase of the water level and ensure compliance with the Division of Safety of Dams,” reported Rania Amen, Santa Fe Irrigation District’s (SFID) engineering service manager at the April 16 SFID board meeting.

Water released from the Hodges Reservoir into the San Dieguito River bed.

SFID had been preparing for an April rain event that would be one to two inches but ultimately brought five-and-a-half inches of rain. As a result, the water level at Hodges rose quickly and they had to release water even though they had been pumping the district’s local water “full-throttle” to the San Dieguito and Olivenhain Reservoirs.

With the rain forecasted, the district began pumping April 7 when the reservoir was at 294.4, feet—by 6 a.m. on April 11, it had reached 299.4 feet and after notifying the public, they opened the blow-off valve at 11 a.m. that day, releasing water into the San Dieguito River bed.

The city of San Diego continues to finalize plans for improvements to Hodges Dam.

“We were able to retain a lot more local water than we otherwise could have but it is a shame we had to release the water,” said SFID General Manager Al Lau. “Looking at the ultimate fix, repairing the dam, is so important to our district and to our ratepayers. Going forward that’s something staff is definitely focused on.”