Removing Benbow Dam: Yea or Nay?

CapturedamPress release from Humboldt County : 

California State Parks North Coast Redwoods District and Northern Service Center staff will present information regarding a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) that has been prepared for removal of the dam across the South Fork of the Eel River at Benbow Lake State Recreation Area.

The presentation will take place on Wednesday, September 16th 2015 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Village Hall at the Benbow Lake Golf Course/Benbow KOA, 700 Benbow Drive, Garberville, CA.

Northbound traffic on Highway 101 should take exit 636, make a right on Benbow Lake Drive and follow the curve left to Benbow KOA.  Southbound traffic on Highway 101 should take exit 636, make a left on Benbow Lake Drive and follow the curve left to Benbow KOA.

Staff will present graphics from the MND and be available to answer questions.  The MND will be posted for 30 days of public comment starting Sept 10th at:



  • Re-construct the dam with fish friendly engineering so everyone’s happy. We need to bring the Benbow lake back! When the dam died a little peice of SoHum died with it.
    The lake is crucial for tourism and concert venues and we’re losing revenue daily not having it.
    It’s insane that it was de-constructed. We want the dam back!

    • I’m with you, Marge. When the dam went away we no longer spent 2 to 4 camping trips a summer in Benbow!

      • Ingenuity people, ingenuity. The more I am told something is impossible I cannot help get a little more determined to prove it wrong. Even if the end result is failure.

      • Loved It! First impression I was a kid sitting on beach. Sam comes in from going around in a circle with a ski boat drinking beer from a clear women’s mannequin leg. That is all I am saying on that. Festivals are the best! They are an impressionist painting beautiful. It could be done. Just for the fire protection alone it seems it would be worth it. (paddle boats only)

  • What would we possibly need that much water sitting around all summer.
    Plus people having picnics , swimming, and canoeing would just be wrong.

    Ya, I know, pike fish and water warming. Something a creative biologist/engineer might bother trying to mitigate someday.

  • There is money in the park system for this?! Seems to me that the moolah could be better used to keep some little parks open. Definitely get someone out there to saw out/grind down the rebar sticking out of the dam on the downstream side so visitors don’t hurt themselves. I must say I am very attached to the long lap pool that forms on the downstream side, and that I have consulted with a small family of otters who frequent the place and that they are in complete agreement with everything I have opined here.

  • Get over it. The river has changed greatly since the dam was built in the 1920s and a changing climate will only make it worse. It was a salmon killer from Day One despite the poorly designed fish ladder that was later abandoned.

    Irrespective of the negative environmental impact of creating a place for people to play in an algae-choked toxic pond in the summer for 2 months, the amount of money it would take to restore a summer dam and operate it every year is never going to be there again. Note: in it’s last days the permit to fill the lake only ran from June 15 to September 15 and the lake took half of that time to fill. It just can’t be justified. Bring out the explosives and excavators and get rid of the obstructions in the river.

    • My only wish was that at least one study providing positive evidence for an improvement in the fish population get published. As it is now it is a just a ” take our word for it ” scenario.

    • I’m for restoring the river to it’s natural state there, but as my friend wildlife photographer Talia Rose pointed out elsewhere today the deconstruction of the dam needs to not disturb the bald eagle nest above the work site when it’s occupied by the pair making new eagles. I hope she goes to the meeting tonight and asks about that.

      • BFD.
        If the nest gets knocked down they’ll just build another one elsewhere.
        The Bird will write it off as a natural disaster and move on with it’s life.

  • The only good dam is a Beaver dam!

  • With out that damn there’s no swimming hole.but right now there’s alot of algae,we don’t want that .but that’s because of the drought,the rains will take care of that.They have done it this way seems like forever

  • I remember as a kid I took swimming lessons from Mrs Lehman it was so nice when the lake was in , but sad to say that was 40 yrs ago wish they would do that again

  • Benbow is a good place to launch a drift boat. Can’t do that when the dam is all clogged up.

  • Some people are writing as if they think the dam is operational and obstructing the river, but they haven’t dammed the river channel for some time, 2007 as Julie remarked, so I don’t see how there is harm to the fish. This about removing the concrete remains, not rebuilding the dam.

  • Still what a shame they let it get so run down.

  • Don’t see any reason to remove the remaining structure. I was a fan of the dam as I felt that the deep water at the dam face was probably cooler and thus would actually benefit the fish. There are remnants of bridges and other structures all up and down the Eel. One more won’t matter. Some years back some well intentioned folks decided to clean out the debris in Sproul/Sprowel Creek. It turned that stretch into one long riffle. No place to hide. I took a ride along the creek from Barnums gate to the ridge east of Thorn and the only place I saw in small fish was where logging debris provided cover and shade. Its a balance. To much debris and spawning requires a ladder. Too little and theres no place to be

  • The dam was constructed primarily for the Benbow power company to run the Inn, and the fish ladder, as Uti so correctly noted, was lame by modern standards. The dam was a great lamprey gathering site.
    About fifteen years ago I would walk up the trail behind the Inn and drop down on the road to the north end of the cable that went across the lake. There was a rope to rappel down to the lake and come onto the dam on the north side which had the fish ladder. One day I crested the top of the dam and looked down into the pool below and saw a mother otter and three pups cavorting in the water. I got down to a ledge beside the fish ladder to observe and to my delight, they came up the fish ladder and didn’t see me. The pups made it up the ladder to immediately beside me but a foot and a half lower, and the mother to the ladder compartment one below before she sounded alarm and two of the three pups followed her in great haste. The third didn’t hear the alarm and noticed no one around and swam in a circle and mom chirped again and it flopped itself down the slight current in the ladder. The family reunited in the pool below and talked a little amongst themselves, played some more, and moved off downriver. One of many sweet moments on the backside of the dam.
    Naturally, my selfish wish to have a swimming hole on the downstream side of the dam is, of course, less important than what is best for fish and greater ecosystem. I would suspect that safety and litigation are also concerns as parts of the structure on the power plant side are crumbling, and park tourists and locals do some crazy stuff on the dam. And there is structural rebar exposed deep in the water. Be curious to know more about this.

  • People are no Damn good!

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