Whether Drought Or Storms, Folsom Dam Is Multi-Purpose Facility

Folsom Dam is an important part of California’s flood protection system. Due to the abundance of storms in Northern California this year, the floodgates on the dam have been opened periodically to release water from Folsom Lake, allowing storm runoff to safely flow into the lake without flood danger to communities downstream.

Water flowing freely from the Folsom Dam has been a rare sight throughout the state’s historic six-year drought. During that time, water was primarily released because of the consistent demand of supply.

Just as with the drought, those same floodgates are also opened during significant storms, similar to what California has experienced the past month. Due to its small size, the Folsom Reservoir fills quickly and also empties just as fast.

If not for the Folsom Dam, an estimated 700,000 people downstream, along with critical infrastructure, would be in the path of massive flooding.

“The whole purpose of this facility is to avoid downstream flooding,” said Louis Moore, a Deputy Public Affairs Officer with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. “Historically, before the dam was in place, all of the storms that came through the area would typically flood the downtown Sacramento area.”

The Folsom Dam, which opened in 1956 and cost $81 million, was built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers and is 340-feet high and 1,400-feet long.

For more on the Folsom Dam, visit the Bureau of Reclamation here.


Additional resources


Department of Homeland Security

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


Jonathan Gudel

Jonathan Gudel is a Public Information Officer for the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). Since joining Cal OES, he has assisted in the response and recovery efforts of the Aliso Canyon Gas Leak, the state's historic drought, the Oroville Dam Emergency Spillway Incident, unprecedented winter storms in 2017, the 2017 October (Sonoma County) and December (Santa Barbara County) wildfires, the Camp Fire in 2018, the 2020 statewide fire siege, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, he worked in the newspaper industry for 12 years.

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