Carmel River Reroute and San Clemente Dam Removal Project

In Cannery Row, John Steinbeck wrote “The Carmel is a lovely little river. It isn’t very long but in its course it has every thing a river should have.”

Since 1921, however, the Carmel River and its wildlife resources have been impacted by San Clemente Dam. As a result of the dam, the Carmel River suffers accelerated erosion, the once vibrant steelhead run has dramatically decreased, and lives and property below the dam are threatened with collapse of the unsafe structure.

Today, there is an extraordinary opportunity to remove the antiquated dam and implement a watershed restoration process that will bring the Carmel River back to life. The State Coastal Conservancy (Conservancy), National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS), and Planning and Conservation League Foundation are working with California American Water (CalAm) to cooperatively implement the Carmel River Reroute and Dam Removal Project.

Benefits of Dam Removal

  • Permanently removes the public safety risk posed by San Clemente Dam, which now threatens 1500 homes and other buildings.
  • Aides in the recovery of central coast steelhead trout, a threatened species, by providing unimpaired access to over 25 miles of spawning and rearing habitat.
  • Expands public recreation by preserving over 900 acres of coastal watershed lands, resulting in over 5400 acres of contiguous regional park land.
  • Restores the natural sediment regime, reducing channel incision and improving habitat for steelhead trout.
  • Reduces beach erosion that now contributes to destabilization of homes, roads and infrastructure.
  • Re-establishes a healthy connection between the lower Carmel River and the watershed above San Clemente Dam.
  • Improves habitat for threatened California red-legged frogs.

Thank You Ocean Podcast: San Clemente Dam Removal Project

Sam Schuchat, the Executive Officer of the State Coastal Conservancy discusses an extraordinary opportunity to remove the antiquated dam through a unique example of public and private interests working together to realize benefits far beyond what either could achieve working alone.


We invite you to read more about this video podcast by visiting the Thank You Ocean website.

San Clemente Dam

Project Related Documents

Upcoming Public Meetings

The State Coastal Conservancy and the Wildlife Conservation Board will be considering approval of construction funds for the Carmel River Reroute and Removal Project at the following upcoming meetings:

State Coastal Conservancy Board Meeting
May 19, 2011 (Los Angeles)

Wildlife Conservation Board Meeting
June 2, 2011 (Sacramento)

Conservancy Staff Contacts:

Trish Chapman -, 510-286-0749

Laura Engeman -, 949-361-8929