USACE initiates NEPA and site selection process for new USFS visitor center in Lake Isabella

Published Dec. 18, 2019

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District has established a dedicated project delivery team and initiated efforts in support of delivering a new U.S. Forest Service visitor center in Lake Isabella, California. The facility will replace the former USFS visitor center that was demolished to make way for construction of a new 300-foot-wide emergency spillway between the main and auxiliary dams as part of the Isabella Dam Safety Modification Project.

The USFS has identified multiple replacement locations for consideration near Lake Isabella, including the Bob Powers Gateway Preserve and other locations within the Township of Lake Isabella and nearby federal lands.

In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, the federal government is required to evaluate the various alternatives and their associated effects on environmental, social, cultural, and economic resources. The project team completed initial fact gathering site visits to the proposed replacement locations in October 2019 and has communicated with local stakeholders and government leaders to provide an update on the process and next steps.

The NEPA process generally takes up to 12 months for projects of this size and includes a public comment period.

Completed in 1953, Isabella Lake Dam is located approximately 42 miles northeast of Bakersfield. The reservoir is impounded by two earthen dams on the Kern River and Hot Springs Valley. Today, Isabella Lake and its dams reduce flood risk for Bakersfield and the surrounding region, and is a primary water source for water users throughout Kern County. The Isabella Dam Safety Modification Project will address overtopping, seismic, and seepage issues identified with Isabella Lake’s main and auxiliary dams to reduce the likelihood of dam failure. Construction of the dam modifications began in 2017 and is estimated to be completed in 2022.

For more information on the Isabella Dam Safety Modification Project, visit

Rick Brown

Release no. 19-021