Corps breaks ground on Tule River Spillway Enlargement Project

Published Sept. 29, 2020

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District, along with local and federal partners, have broken ground on the Tule River Spillway U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District Commander COL James Handura watches as groundbreaking gets underway on the Tule River Spillway Enlargement Project at Success Lake near Porterville, California.Enlargement Project at Success Lake near Porterville, California.

The project is a cooperative effort between USACE, the Central Valley Flood Protection Board, the California Department of Water Resources, and the Lower Tule River Irrigation District to raise the gross pool elevation of Success Lake, reducing the downstream risk of flooding while also increasing the water supply capability of the reservoir.

Phase one of the two-phase project includes realigning Avenue 146 on the southwest side of the lake. The road currently passes through the spillway and becomes inundated during high-water encroachment. The realignment will reduce road closures due to flooding in the future and will also provide improved access for phase two project work, which includes widening the 200-foot-wide spillway to 360 feet wide and constructing a 10-foot-high concrete Ogee Weir across the spillway.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Sacramento District Commander Colonel James Handura. “It’s taken many years of effort, not only from our dedicated Corps of Engineers employees but also from our local partners and elected officials to get this project moving forward.”

In addition to the increased flood protection, the communities downstream of Success Lake depend heavily on water stored in the reservoir to help support a vibrant agricultural ecosystem, and local leaders believe increased storage capacity will be a boon for the city of Porterville, Tulare County, and beyond.

“Water is such a valuable commodity, it is the most important resource that keeps the Central Valley going,” said David De Groot, the Tule River Association’s Assistant Water Master. “This valley is the breadbasket – we provide so much food to the entire world out of this valley, and the number one thing that we need to make that happen is water.”

In addition to enlarging the spillway, the project will also provide armoring for the Highway 190 bridge that passes over the lake’s Tule River South Fork, and add additional rock slope protection for Frazier Dike, located on the northwest side of the lake.

Phase One construction is expected to be complete in summer 2021, with Phase Two completion expected in 2023.

“The key here is that we’re now moving dirt,” said Handura. “This project is moving and it’s a great opportunity to work with our partners at all levels to help lower flood risk for the people of Porterville and the region.”

Schafer Dam and Success Lake, which was constructed by the Corps in 1961, is operated by the Corps for flood control and storage of irrigation water. Recreational facilities at the lake were added after the dam was completed. The dam is located on the Tule River about 6 miles east of the City of Porterville. 

For more information about the Tule River Spillway Enlargement Project, visit the project web page at


Rick Brown

Release no. 20-026