The 100-foot-tall Rindge Dam in Malibu Creek is located in the Santa Monica Mountains, about three miles upstream from Southern California’s Malibu coastline. Construction of the concrete dam and spillway structure was completed in 1926 on the Rindge family property and provided water for irrigation and household use in Malibu. The reservoir filled entirely with sediment by the 1940s, and the dam was decommissioned in 1967. It was purchased shortly thereafter by California State Parks and is now part of Malibu Creek State Park.
California Department of Parks and Recreation
Construction completed in 1926; Decommissioned in 1967
Height: 100 ft, Total capacity: 600-acre ft completely filled with sediment
California Dept of Parks and Rec, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Santa Monica Mountains Resource Conservation District, City of Malibu, Mountains Restoration Trust, Surfrider, Army Corps of Engineers, National Marine Fisheries Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Las Virgenes Municipal Water District.
Since it was originally constructed in 1926, Rindge Dam has altered the geomorphic, riparian, and aesthetic character of Malibu Creek. One of the lasting impacts to the creek is that the dam has trapped ~780,000 cubic yards of sediment naturally destined for the coast, where it would support beach and nearshore habitats. After the reservoir behind Rindge Dam filled with sediment less than 30 years after its construction, it was decommissioned in 1967. Moreover, the lower three miles of Malibu Creek below Rindge Dam is designated critical habitat for the federal endangered steelhead, and the dam blocks their access to approximately 18 miles of high-quality spawning and rearing habitat in the creek and its tributaries.
The removal of Rindge Dam represents a unique opportunity for systemic and sustainable ecological restoration in southern California, one of the most urbanized areas in the country. Rindge Dam was deemed obsolete due its lack of function as a water storage facility and has been the subject of removal planning for decades. While there is little disagreement about the need to remove Rindge Dam, progress has been incremental given the science and engineering complexities of the project. The dam removal process was formalized in 1992 when the U.S. House of Representatives commissioned the “Malibu Creek Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study” , which requested a solution to improve the Malibu Creek watershed and Malibu shoreline. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and California Department of Parks and Recreation co-led this study to evaluate ecosystem restoration opportunities to improve aquatic and riparian ecosystem habitat connectivity and restore more natural sediment transport to the coast. The Locally Preferred Plan (LPP) was selected as the preferred alternative for dam removal. The LPP calls for the removal of the concrete arch dam and spillway, removal or modification of eight smaller upstream fish passage barriers, and removal of ~780,000 cubic yards of impounded sediment. ~276,000 cubic yards of sediment would be placed along the Malibu shoreline and nearshore areas. The remaining sediment will be transported to a local landfill.
The Malibu Creek Ecosystem Restoration Study Final Integrated Feasibility Report was completed in November 2020 and signed by Commanding General Scott Spellmon in December 2020. The design phase of the project will begin in 2022. The 2021-2022 California State Budget allocates $12.5 million for CDPR to advance planning, design, and technical studies leading to removal of the dam. Over the next four years, CDPR will lead the design phase of this project, which will include additional technical studies; dam removal design in sequential phases to a 90% level of completion; environmental permitting; and communication and public outreach . California Trout will partner with CDPR during the design phase to lead communication and public outreach. Transporting the sediment trapped behind Rindge Dam will be a particularly complex piece of this project. Under the LPP, approximately one-third, of the impounded sediment would be trucked to Ventura Harbor, placed on barges, and deposited along the Malibu shoreline or nearshore areas that have been sediment-starved since Rindge Dam was built. The remaining two-thirds of the sediment would be deposited at a local landfill. The timeframe to transport all the sediment is an estimated eight years due to seasonal construction and daily trucking restrictions. The estimated total cost of the LPP is $279 million, with significant cost savings if sediment transport costs can be economized.
Help Endangered Southern California Steelhead: Support the Southern Steelhead petition for endangered status listing. Attend public meetings about the project. Contact federal and state legislators with support for Rindge Dam removal. Follow media releases at caltrout.org.Help Us