Friday, March 9, 2018

Sometimes Construction Methods Don't Change

Image courtesy of
(place image here)

The photo below was taken in 1918-- when the first Calaveras Dam was being constructed.  These workers are excavating in the dam's foundation.  They're using using 4-mule carriages(4-horsepower) to do the job. Each power train (4-mule carriages) transport approximately 4 cubic yards per load at a speed of 1 to 2 mph. 

Fast forward a hundred years.  The photo below was taken at the new Calaveras Dam as workers were excavating the new core.  The workers in this photo are doing the same job with a Caterpillar Motor Scraper with a 450 horse power engine capable of carrying 30 cubic yards at a speed of 25 to 30 mph.

Although times have changed, sometimes the methods don't.  

See you around the valley!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Carpenters Hard at Work

Today’s photos were taken by SFPUC photographer, Robin Scheswohl, inside the construction project to rebuild our Sunol Corporation Yard, which is located near the Sunol Water Temple.

While on site, Robin caught sight of a few of the approximately 11 carpenters who are working to build the structures for the new hub of East Bay water system operations for SFPUC staff. 

Here's a glimpse of their hard day's work.

Carpenter welding steel framing inside one of our buildings.

Here's one of our talented carpenter’s welding a piece of steel.

And, here she's installing the steel framing.

The Corporation Yard will be home to our Water Supply, Treatment East Bay Operations and Natural Resources Personnel. Improvements are expected to be completed by the end of 2018. During construction, the Sunol Water Temple will be closed to the general public.

See you around the valley!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Sunol The Bobcat is Back!

In the late summer of 2016, our team found this cute bobcat kitten alone and abandoned on the embankment of the replacement Calaveras Dam under construction.

Image courtesy of W.E.R.C

Our Environmental Inspector, Bill Stagnaro and Geologist, Carrie Dovzak, arranged for the kitten to be transferred to the Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center (W.E.R.C) in Morgan Hill, California. The W.E.R.C Center has a world-renowned bobcat kitten program. This program ensures that single orphans such as Sunol, as she was later named, do not become habituated during their time in care. They help socialize the orphan and reinforce bobcat behavior, such as hunting and stalking techniques.

Sunol was recently released, with the permission from California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and the Park Rangers.  During her release, she was given plenty of water, prey, and cover to help ensure her long-time survival.

Image courtesy of W.E.R.C

Image courtesy of W.E.R.C

Bobcats, also called lynx rufus, are found throughout the United States. They are nocturnal animals that hunt small rodents. Many people confuse them for mountain lions even though they are much smaller.

We wish Sunol a very happy life in her native home.

See you around the valley!

For more information on the Bobcat rehabilitation program at W.E.R.C go to:

Friday, February 2, 2018

Winter at Calaveras Dam

There is plenty of work happening during this winter season at the Calaveras Dam Replacement Project.  Although our construction team is not working on the dam’s embankment, they're keeping busy with other important construction projects that need to be completed before spring. Here is a glimpse of the work in progress.

Our team is working hard to construct some of the support facilities. Support facilities such as: the stream maintenance vault, the downstream toe electrical building and all of the electrical equipment are needed to operate the outlet works.

V34 Vault

Electrical Panels for Stream Maintenance Vault

Electrical Panel in Downstream Toe Building

Our team continues to prepare the left abutment foundation. Part of this job entails removing a temporary tieback retaining wall. This temporary tieback retaining wall was needed during the construction of the spillway to support an ancient landslide.

Tie Backs

During the past two weeks, our team has been working hard installing the last of our piezometers. For more information on our internal and external instrumentation, reference our November 7, 2017 and December 15, 2017 blog posts.

Drill Rig for Insturmentation


Our crew is working hard to finish these projects before the spring time. As you can see, there is a lot of activity happening in the winter months.

See you around the valley!

Friday, January 19, 2018

A Celebrity at the Alameda Creek Diversion Dam

There was a celebrity in our midst at the SFPUC's Alameda Creek Diversion Dam, the site of the Fish Passage Facilities Project. Field Biologist Chris Pattison spied this California Red-legged frog recently near the construction site and moved it to a safer location.

"Why is this frog famous?" you ask.

Could it be because the California Red-Legged frog (Rana draytonii) is a federally threatened species? 

Or that they are found almost exclusively in California?

Or that they were once a common meal for miners during the Gold Rush?  

Give up?

It has the distinct honor of being the Official Amphibian for the State of California. Read more in this blog post from 2014.

It is heartening to know that these really special frogs are still hopping around the Alameda Creek Watershed.

See you around the Valley!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Photo Friday from January 9, 1913

Happy Photo Friday!

While the East Coast of the U.S. experiences frigid temperatures and some frightening weather event called a 'bomb cyclone', we in the Bay Area, have been experiencing relatively mild temperatures. 

This was not always the case, however. For this Photo Friday we delve back to photos taken almost exactly 105 years ago, on January 9, 1913. 

On that day the crews constructing the first Calaveras Dam found their work site covered in snow. 

The site was so remote back then that the crews lived on site. Here is the watershed keeper's house and another worker's cabin.

Shown here is a barn, corral, and nearby cottage. 

It might be foggy out there today, but at least it isn't snowing!

Happy long weekend and see you around the Valley!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Sunol Valley's Native Residents - California Tiger Salamanders

Photos curtesy of Bill Stagnaro

It has started to rain in the East Bay! And with the first major rain fall of fall and winter appears a native Sunol Valley resident - the California Tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense). 

These ever smiling amphibians are very elusive and hard to find. They are not really smiling but appear to be because of their wide mouth outlined in yellow. An adult California Tiger salamander can reach 7.5 inches or more in length.  Adults are black or dark grey, with oval to bar-shaped spots ranging in color from white to yellow. Juveniles are dark olive green in color and do not generally have any lighter markings. The best time to spot them is at the beginning of the rainy season.

The California Tiger salamanders found in the Sunol Valley are a federally threatened species. These beautiful amphibians have a complex life cycle that requires them to have different types of habitats. During mating season, they like to live in vernal or stock ponds. The juveniles and adults live in grasslands and oak woodlands, mainly living underground in the burrows made by other animals.  It is not uncommon to find California Tiger salamanders cohabiting with a family of ground squirrels.

During breeding season they will travel a mile or more to a nearby pond to breed. Although they may live as long as 10 years, they may reproduce only once. Females lay eggs singly or in small groups. Its larvae require significantly more time to transform into juvenile adults than other amphibians. Around late spring, salamanders leave the ponds to find burrows.

You most likely will never spot a California Tiger salamander during the hot summer months that’s because they are in estivation. Estivation is basically another word for “summer hibernation.” During this time they enter a dormant state and will not come out of their burrow until late November or the rainy season.

Photo curtesy of

If you’re ever spot a California Tiger salamander in the Sunol Valley,  smile back at it and count yourself lucky to have spotted it.

See you around the Valley!