Priorities…priorities…Government “unaccountability” at it’s finest. If someone were truly held accountable for these disasters, like in the case of the Flint water crisis, we would likely not be reading about them. 
Federal and state officials have a lot to answer for in the wake of the Oroville Dam fiasco. They decided in 2005 to ignore warnings that the massive earthen spillway adjacent to the dam itself could erode during heavy winter rains — which it has done — and cause a calamity, which it very nearly did this week and could yet do by the end of this winter.
The California Department of Water Resources and host of collaborating agencies continue to monitor the Lake Oroville spillway flows late Thursday afternoon as 35,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water was released over the damaged spillway. More erosion is expected, but the releases will help operators absorb the inflow of the storm waters expected Thursday evening and Friday. DWR first noticed erosion on the spillway Tuesday morning and shut off flows to investigate. (Courtesy of the California Department of Water Resources)
The California Department of Water Resources and host of collaborating agencies continue to monitor the Lake Oroville spillway flows late Thursday afternoon as 35,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water was released over the damaged spillway. More erosion is expected, but the releases will help operators absorb the inflow of the storm waters expected Thursday evening and Friday. DWR first noticed erosion on the spillway Tuesday morning and shut off flows to investigate. (Courtesy of the California Department of Water Resources)

No less to blame are the water agencies, including the powerful Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which argued that paying for the upgrades a decade ago was unnecessary.

The 180,000 people forced to evacuate Sunday, running for their lives, beg to differ.

A closed sign is displayed on the door of Papaciito's restaurant due to an evacuation order Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017, in Marysville, Calif. Thousands of Northern California residents remain under evacuation orders after authorities warned an emergency spillway in the country's tallest Oroville Dam was in danger of failing Sunday and unleashing uncontrolled flood waters on towns below. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
A closed sign is displayed on the door of Papaciito’s restaurant due to an evacuation order Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017, in Marysville, Calif. Thousands of Northern California residents remain under evacuation orders after authorities warned an emergency spillway in the country’s tallest Oroville Dam was in danger of failing Sunday and unleashing uncontrolled flood waters on towns below. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Can Californians trust the decision-makers who control state water policy? We would not suggest it.

California’s population of 38.8 million people relies on a 60-year-old water delivery system consisting largely of aging dams and aqueducts that have not been maintained adequately and now are unreliable.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s obsession with spending $15 billion to dig two Delta tunnels is preventing the state from spending that money to upgrade the Delta levees, the sinking California Aqueduct and doing basic maintenance to the state’s dams. –Mercury News

obama gov brown

Two weeks before President Barack Obama left office, his administration vowed to move full speed ahead on California’s controversial Delta tunnels project, calling it essential for the state’s water supply as well as its environment.

Rejecting the call by fishermen, Tribes, conservationists, family farmers and environmental justice advocates to terminate the Delta Tunnels plan, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on January 4 issued a Secretarial Order that will mandate the completion of Governor Jerry Brown’s controversial California WaterFix process “in a timely manner.”

The Obama administration order directs the Department of Interior and its agencies to “take timely actions to help address the effects of drought and climate change on California’s water supply and imperiled wildlife.”

What are the Delta water tunnels?

They’re two, 30-mile water tunnels that would be built in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, east of the San Francisco Bay Area. Each tunnel would be 40 feet in diameter, larger than the tunnels that carry BART trains under San Francisco Bay. The project, dubbed “California WaterFix,” would be buried 150 feet below ground.

What’s the California Delta, again?

It’s a huge, inland estuary where Northern California’s major rivers converge before the water flows out to San Francisco Bay. It used to be mostly wetlands and marshes, but much of the land was converted to farming.

Who would get water from the tunnels?

The tunnels would be part of the state’s major water system that serves about 25 million Californians, from the Bay Area to San Diego. Built more than 50 years ago, the network of reservoirs, canals and aqueducts stretches hundreds of miles.

delta

It’s designed to fix a tricky problem that state planners ran into a century ago. Most of the rain and snow falls in Northern California, but most of the state’s population (and many farms) reside in Central and Southern California.

Proposed Route of Delta Water Tunnels

Huge underground project would divert water from the Sacramento River for export to Central and Southern California.

Why Does the Brown Administration want to build them?

The recent drought may have brought water battles to the forefront, but those battles are a perennial feature of California politics. That’s because the central hub of this water system, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, is in bad shape.

Water is drawn from the Delta by two massive pumping facilities that can move millions of gallon per minute. They’re so powerful that they’ve been shown to entrap endangered fish, like Chinook salmon and Delta smelt. When those species are at greatest risk, regulations require slowing down the pumps, potentially limiting how much water reaches cities and farms.

The twin tunnels would take water from farther north near the Sacramento River, and deliver it to the pumping facilities. State officials say that would make the water system more reliable, because the pumps would be used less, avoiding the impacts on endangered species.

How much would the tunnels cost and who would pay for them?

They aren’t cheap. Construction could cost $14.9 billion. Add in mitigation costs for construction impacts, operations and maintenance and the tab runs to about $17 billion over 50 years — and that doesn’t count paying off the bonds that would finance the project. -KQED Science

President Donald Trump wants to invest $550 billion on the nation’s infrastructure needs. Brown agrees that California should jump on the opportunity, but the money has to be used wisely. Neglect of the Oroville Dam, despite multiple alarms sounding over the years, does not inspire confidence.

The Bay Area News Group’s Paul Rogers reported Monday that three environmental groups — the Friends of the River, the Sierra Club and the South Yuba River Citizens League — filed a motion with the federal government on Oct. 17, 2005, as part of Oroville Dam’s relicensing process, urging federal officials to require that the dam’s emergency spillway be armored with concrete rather than remain as just a hillside.

If we get through this winter without loss of lives and many more billions of dollars in property loss expected from the failure of the Oroville spillway, then we can take this as a fortuitous warning to prevent other disasters. But that’s still a big “if.” Storm clouds return Thursday. –Mercury News


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