United States Bureau of Reclamation

Women with Fish - Oregon/1905

Women with sucker fish, circa 1905. Historically, such fish were an important food for Native Americans in the Klamath Basin. Today threatened suckers are at the center of a water allocation controversy. In 2001, fish took priority over farming in a federal irrigation project. Photo: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

My Father ~ Cachuma Reservoir Project — Tecolote Tunnel 1950- 1956 ~ With a capacity of 190,400 acre feet, Cachuma is by far the largest reservoir on the Santa Ynez River. The United States Bureau of Reclamation constructed Cachuma Reservoir and Bradbury Dam in the early 1950s as part of the Cachuma Project. The construction of Cachuma Dam began in August of 1950 and was completed on June 17, 1953. The principal features of the Cachuma Project are Bradbury Dam on the Santa Ynez River, Tecolote Tunnel, the South Coast Conduit, and distribution systems. Included in the main conduit system are four regulating reservoirs and the Sheffield Tunnel. The Tecolote Tunnel was one of the most difficult tunnel projects undertaken by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The tunnel was completed in 1956 following a difficult six-year construction period. Tunnel construction was hampered by groundwater inflow reaching 9000 gpm, temperatures up to 117° F, and dangerous accumulations of methane gas.  One of the most fascinating elements of the Cachuma Lake Project is Tecolote Tunnel, a seven-foot diameter, six-mile long pipeline, bored straight through the mountains in the 1950s.  The tunnel, which brings water from Lake Cachuma to the coast, required years of work, and gained the reputation as a “snarling vicious tiger.” Work was stopped repeatedly by massive flooding in the tunnel, extreme temperatures as high as 117°, dangerous levels of methane gas, and hard rock that shifted and crushed support beams. 100° F tunnel temperatures, aggravated by 117° F water from underground fissures, forced Tecolote Tunnel workers to be transported in “bathtubs"—mine cars filled with cool water. These "baths” were used by the overheated men to cool themselves by riding up to their necks in water, fully clothed.                    Construction Completed: 1956 Owner: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Tecolote Tunnel Length: 6.4 miles Diameter: 7 feet Slope: 3"/1000 Feet Capacity: 100 cfm