Monday, February 13, 2017

Oroville Dam: California officials ignored warnings a decade ago

Republicans should not evacuate until it is certain that it will be necessary, and until they know precisely when it is necessary. This is what they think we should do about climate disruption.

Global warming is causing an increase in the amount of moisture in the air, and thus more incidences of extreme precipitation. It is also causing snows to melt earlier, which is one of the causes of the Oroville problem.

By Chandrika Narayan, CNN
Updated 6:50 PM ET, Mon February 13, 2017

Environmental groups warned nearly 12 years ago that the nation's tallest dam in California was an imminent disaster.
They worried that heavy rain and fast-rising waters could overwhelm the main concrete spillway of the Oroville Dam, overflow the emergency spillway and flood communities downstream.
They were ignored.

And this weekend, some of their fears were realized.
Ron Stork, policy director with Friends of the River, a Sacramento environmental group, said state and federal officials were told to reinforce the spillway.
"We urged them to put concrete on the spillway -- our argument was that without a proper spillway, the hillside would wash away and cause catastrophic flooding," Stork said.
A perfect storm of events led this month to the partial failure of the dam, which provides flood control for the region.
"Extreme hydrologic events precipitated this near-disaster," said Blake Paul Tullis, a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Utah State University.


Authorities ordered mass evacuations for some 188,000 people, out of concern the spillway could fail and send walls of water roaring downstream. The sudden evacuations sent residents into a panic.


Stork said he had seen this coming way back in October of 2005 when Friends of the River, along with the Sierra Club and the South Yuba Citizens League, filed a motion with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as part of Oroville Dam's re-licensing process.
In the motion, they argued that the Oroville Dam -- which was completed in 1968 and owned by the state of California -- did not meet modern safety standards.
They stressed in the motion that the auxiliary spillway was designed to work with a replacement dam that was never built. Without that new dam, the Oroville Dam's auxiliary spillway was designed to be used in in a controlled, infrequent way and not in an emergency capacity, they said.


The energy regulatory commission rejected their motion to reinforce the emergency spillway with concrete.
Stork said money was an issue.
A response filed by the State Water Contractors and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California said FERC, which issues the licenses, could not require them to pay the damages required for the upgrades.
The filing also said that flood control arguments were "misdirected and unsupported" due to routine dam safety checks and the uncertain effects of climate change on the river basin.


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