Oroville Dam Crisis Shows Why We Must Invest In Infrastructure

huffingtonpost – excerpt (including video)

WASHINGTON ― Every few years an actual or threatened disaster highlights the state of America’s crumbling infrastructure. President Barack Obama, for example, pointed to a 2007 bridge collapse in Minneapolis, which left 13 people dead and dozens of others injured, in his push for more federal funding to overhaul roads, bridges and waterways.

Another potentially catastrophic situation arose in California over the weekend.

Nearly 200,000 people were told to evacuate on Sunday as workers labored to repair a severely damaged spillway below the country’s tallest dam, which holds back California’s largest reservoir. Heavy storms in recent months had pushed water levels to historic highs at Lake Oroville, which supplies water to central and southern portions of the state.

The situation was so dire at one point that officials issued warnings to multiple communities near the dam. Water levels in the reservoir receded somewhat by late Sunday, giving authorities additional time to bolster an auxiliary spillway. But a new storm system arriving later this week could fill Lake Oroville to the brim once more, with no indication of when the thousands of displaced people will be able to return to their homes.

Failure to invest in infrastructure comes at a heavy cost. Collapses in the New Orleans levee system led to mass flooding, billions of dollars in property damage and hundreds of deaths in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

One of Trump’s biggest promises for his first 100 days was to deliver a $1 trillion infrastructure plan to Congress. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) poured cold water over the idea of a large spending package in December, telling reporters he hoped to avoid “a trillion-dollar stimulus.” And with other items on Trump’s agenda ― including the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and an overhaul of the nation’s tax system ― seemingly stalled on Capitol Hill, a major infrastructure bill could take years to land on the president’s desk…(more)


Report: Officials ignored Oroville Dam spillway concerns 12 years ago

abcnews – excerpt

Our media partner the San Jose Mercury News reports the environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, filed a motion with the federal government in 2005, urging federal officials to require that the dam’s emergency spillway be armored with concrete, rather than remain as an earthen hillside.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected the request after the state department of water resources and other water agencies said the upgrades were unnecessary…(more)

Spillway concerns have been ignored by federal and state officials for years because the government has a problem setting realistic priorities and policies. How do we reset a broken political system that ignores science ? We understand that seismic issues are not taken into account by CEQA.

How this is possible in a state as unstable as California?  These are the kind of CEQA reforms that we need to concentrate on, not administrative reforms that speed up the review critical process. How do we reform the broken system that is supposed to protect our major investments like dams and bridges? How do we turn the decision-making process into one that serves the public instead of corporate interests and political egos?

Neighborhoods all over the country are fighting  back with ballot measures like Yes on S in LA that would impose a moratorium on large development project approvals because the public does not trust the government to make the right decisions.

Oroville Dam: Motion to Intervene of Friends of the River, Sierra Club, and South Yuba River Citizens League filed on October 17, 2005: Motion


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