There is a battle in progress regarding the removal of the Ringe Dam on the Malibu River. We should stop for a moment and consider the basics of this debate.
The first and foremost issue should be public safety, and the safety of those living below the dam. As the dam is currently filled with sediment, it acts in no way to control the river and its occasional flooding. The river has flooded several times since the dam was completed, as the long term residents of the Serra Retreat area have attested. If the dam were partially or completely emptied, and allowed to maintain a lake, would this add to the danger for the people living below it (by providing a flow contributor to the heavier materials during a failure)?
Did the Northridge earthquake compromise the structural integrity of the dam? The dam has not been thoroughly inspected, to my knowledge, since the decommissioning of it several decades ago. As it stands now the Ringe Dam is a liability to the state parks department. Should the builders of the dam (the Ringe family) carry the responsibility for maintaining the dam, or the financial responsibility of repairing any damages caused by the dam’s eventual failure?
A feasibility study is in development that would review all aspects of the dam. This includes maintaining the dam, as well as removing it. This would provide scientific information to all people interested and allow an intelligent debate to continue, or possibly even eliminate the debate all together. Comprehensive information on the dam would enable us to resolve this issue and focus our efforts on improving other areas of Malibu including the river.
Although there are many factors contributing to the decline of the steel-head population, there is the potential to rebuild the wild trout run in this watershed. Removing the dam will provide these fish greater access to their native waters; this will only aid in their recovery. Eliminating or reducing the other threats, including but not limited to; pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, farm and ranch waste such as horse manure, general trash and street run-off, unnatural excess water flow (Tapia), and industrial wastes will not only help the steel-head, but will aid in protecting the health of the children, surfers and general public who use the beach and lagoon area where the river empties.
If the Ringe family would like a namesake, wouldn’t it be much nicer to have a pristine canyon as a remembrance rather than a destroyed section of the canyon and river?
I close with but two questions: Would you rather live next to a stream that may over flow once in a while, or below a 100-foot wall of mud, dirt, rock and water that will eventually collapse? Does Mr. Ringe live below the dam? No.