The US government is to fund a US$1M investigation into the benefits of building a dam on the American river in Auburn, north of Sacramento, California, as part of a water and energy bill passed by the US House of Representatives.

Republican representative T Doolittle, of Roseville, California, has been the chief champion of the Auburn dam study, which was abandoned by other Californian officials in favour of making improvements to the existing Folsom dam.

Doolittle sees a dam at Auburn as being the only option that will give Sacramento sufficient flood protection.

The water and energy bill, for the 2006 fiscal year, features US$28M in flood control for the Sacremento region, including US$10M of funding to continue construction of a permanent bridge downstream of Folsom dam. The bill still needs approval by the US Senate.

Auburn dam was originally conceived in 1955, and was authorised by US congress in 1965. Construction was originally due to be completed in 1973, but work shut down in 1980 and has been dormant ever since.