On April 13, 1912, the citizens of Marin County voted in favor of forming a public water company — the Marin Municipal Water District, the first municipal water district in California. As MMWD nears its 100-year anniversary, we will be looking back at our roots and sharing some of our stories, achievements and photos. Perhaps our readers have remembrances or photos to share as well.
One of the first acts of the newly formed water district was the building of Alpine Dam between the summer of 1917 and the spring of 1919. Alpine Dam is one of four district dams built along Lagunitas Creek and the only concrete dam. MMWD engineer Albert Reed Baker named the dam Alpine and was instrumental in its construction. The proposal to build a dam at this location originated with one of the district’s predecessors, the Mt. Tamalpais Water Company, as early as January 1868.
The dam was completed on January 7, 1919, for a cost of approximately $265,000. It was 100 feet high and 325 feet along the crest with a 15-foot width for automobile crossing as part of the Fairfax-Bolinas Road. The surface area of the reservoir was 135 acres, storing 1.0 billion gallons of water (or 3,068 acre-feet*), an increase in storage of more than 300 percent over that of Lagunitas and Phoenix reservoirs.
In 1924 the district board voted to raise the dam eight feet, increasing the storage capacity to 1.3 billion gallons (3,989 acre-feet). This decision was in partial response to a contract with California and Hawaiian (C&H) Sugar Company to provide water for its refinery in Crockett. C&H paid for the dam to be raised at a cost of $59,115.30. They also paid for the six miles of 12-inch pipeline to deliver the water from the reservoir to what is now the Marin Rod and Gun Club pier at Point San Quentin.
The dam was raised a third time by 30 feet in 1942 to supply water for the increasing population of Marin County as well as the military establishments that were being enlarged and the shipyards in Sausalito and Marin City that were built during WWII. This increased the dam’s height to 135 feet and its capacity to 2.9 billion gallons (or 8,891 acre-feet). The cost of raising the dam by 30 feet, which was comparatively much more complicated than raising it eight feet, was $728,640.51.
*One acre-foot is 325,851 gallons.