Langdon "Don" Owen, a Southern California water leader for 40 years, was memorialized today when the West Dam at Diamond Valley Lake, the Southland's largest drinking water reservoir, was named in his honor by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
"Don Owen was a visionary," said Metropolitan board Chairman Phillip J. Pace, unveiling a plaque in Owen's honor. "He saw the trees and the whole forest. He envisioned and built a water reclamation plant in Fountain Valley that was years ahead of the trend."
Diamond Valley Lake, near Hemet in southwestern Riverside County, was built by Metropolitan between 1995 and 1999, using three earth-and-rock-filled dams to enclose two adjoining valleys. The Don Owen West Dam is 285 feet high and 1.6 miles long, while the East Dam is 185 feet high and 2.1 miles long. A 130-foot-high "saddle" dam fills a half-mile-long dip in the mountains that ring the northwest side of the lake.
Owen represented the Municipal Water District of Orange County on Metropolitan's board from 1996 until his passing in 2003. He was general manager of the Orange County Water District from 1968-73, after which he formed Don Owen & Associates, a Newport Beach consulting firm. He served from 1980-98 as an elected member of the board of the Orange County Water District.
From 1953 to 1963, Owen worked for the California Department of Water Resources in Sacramento, where as an engineer he directed the planning of the proposed Peripheral Canal in the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta during construction of the State Water Project.
Pace presided over a morning ceremony held at Metropolitan's Hiram W. Wadsworth Pump Plant at Diamond Valley Lake. After speeches, Pace unveiled a bronze memorial plaque that will be installed at the viewpoint that overlooks Don Owen Dam and the 4.5-mile-long, 4,500-acre lake.
Ronald R. Gastelum, MWD chief executive officer, noted that Owen "made things happen that would benefit the communities he served for decades to come.
"He was involved in a range of infrastructure facilities, from transportation to flood control, sewer and water, and his contributions in the field of engineering are widely recognized," Gastelum said.
Also speaking were John V. Foley, who represents MWDOC on Metropolitan's board and served along with Owen, and Owen's son and family spokesman Tim Owen.
The plaque will eventually be installed at the Clayton A. Record Jr. Viewpoint, a public overlook entered at Highway 79 and Construction Road, south of Domenigoni Parkway, near Winchester.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving 18 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage and other resource-management programs.