Reclaiming dam spillway doors to honor wildlife in the Carmel River Watershed
Jessica consulted with the Carmel River Watershed Conservancy to brainstorm interpretation concepts for California's largest dam removal. The beautiful, massive steel doors that were once affixed to the spillway at the top of the 106-foot tall San Clemente Dam can realize a proud new purpose... In this concept, each of the seven cities that source water from the Carmel River shall feature a segment of this historic steel infrastructure repurposed as a large, laser-cut tree grate to host one of seven species of trees found in the watershed - Western sycamore, red alder, coast live oak, madrone, big-leaf maple, California buckeye, and coast redwood. A curvilinear cut running lengthwise through the steel will evoke the river, and allow native understory species to grow through. Inscribed through each grate will be the simple words: "WATER IS LIFE," in both English and in the native Esselen language. Furthermore, a substantial list of names of the wildlife species that thrive here, also in both languages, will be etched through the once-imposing steel, becoming the conduit for rainwater to nurture each tree. These tree grates will serve as a unique kind of memorial to the dam itself, as well as a tribute to all of the life that will benefit from the river flowing freely in the dam’s absence – from the insects and aquatic invertebrates at the base of the food chain, to the reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds, rodents and mammals we know and love. The list will highlight both extinct animals, such as the grizzly bear, as well as the endangered species that demand our concerted and persistent care. These installations would provide a tangible, historic reminder of how the dam enabled the growth of these beloved cities, while reconnecting them to the the river itself.