Dam plans in Calif. raise questions of costs and environmental damage

As prodigious winter runoff empties into the ocean, Californians who spent the past few years in a drought might see those rivers gushing by and wonder, thirstily, "Why can't we capture that?"

Had we done so in the last wet period, the thinking goes, perhaps we could have tempered the sting of drought. More storage capacity could also reduce flood risk in years when the rain and snow just won't stop.

The idea is simple, but executing it is controversial – and expensive. Large state and federal water storage projects have been in the planning for years, and construction dates remain elusive. Some projects, such as the long-dormant Auburn dam on the American River, have been halted by environmental, safety and financial concerns.

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