An excellent overview article about California dams, from the San Jose Mercury News.
How much money drought-stricken California should spend to build new dams was a big part of the debate over the bill that Gov. Jerry Brown signed last month to put a $7.5 billion water bond on the November ballot.
Republicans and Central Valley Democrats who pushed hardest for new reservoirs highlighted the fact that California built many of the world’s most ambitious dam projects during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, but a large state- or federally-funded reservoir hasn’t been built in 35 years.
But why did the era of big dams end, when California has built new roads, schools, universities, hospitals and freeways?
Experts say there are a confluence of factors, from environmental laws to funding to a lack of suitable sites. Now supporters of new reservoirs are trying to start a new dam-building era.
“We have lived off the investment and sweat of the World War II generation,” said Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation. “We have done nothing for the future generations but put them in a real bind.”
Their argument, with California mired in a third straight year of drought, carried enough weight for lawmakers to include $2.7 billion for new water storage. Now, voters in November can decide whether the state should start digging again.
The 10 largest reservoirs in California, linchpins of the water system for 38 million people and the nation’s largest farm economy, were all built between 1927 and 1979. Shasta Lake, the massive inland sea on the Sacramento River near Redding, was finished in 1945. Oroville, the tallest dam in the United States, at 770-feet high on the Feather River in Butte County, was started under Gov. Pat Brown’s building boom in 1961 and finished in 1968.
Retrieved September 22, 2014 from http://www.mercurynews.com/science/ci_26444134/california-drought-why-doesnt-california-build-big-dams