The Oroville Dam — at 770 feet, America’s tallest — is on the verge of failing. And Sacramento, which has been fiddling for decades while Rome burns, is running for cover.
This isn’t just any dam; it’s the primary storage facility located on the Feather River for the State Water Project, the state-owned conveyance system that provides drinking water to more than two-thirds of California’s population.
If the dam were to fail, it could inundate not only the city of Oroville but numerous other communities downstream, including Yuba City, Marysville and even West Sacramento.
At the moment, the emergency spillway is being used for the first time since Governor Ronald Reagan approved its construction, and almost 200,000 people have been evacuated.
What’s Governor Jerry Brown doing?
The same thing he’s been doing for decades — obstructing progress. California has been so busy defying President Donald Trump in order to protect illegal aliens from deportation that it forgot to do the things government is supposed to do, like maintain infrastructure. Governor Brown is now going hat-in-hand to beg the Trump administration for emergency funds.
According to Breitbart News sources, the Trump administration is already closely monitoring the situation, and has dispatched personnel and made contingency plans to aid California in the event of a catastrophic dam failure.
But it’s during the seven dry years — the extended drought — that the state should have fixed its water infrastructure, like dams and canals. Brown and his merry band of Democrats had different priorities, like high-speed rail, benefits for illegal aliens, and unsustainable pensions.
The reality is that Sacramento was warned over and over again. Just a few years back, environmentalists raised concerns that an earthquake could degrade the massive earthen rockfill dam. Sacramento just chose to ignore those concerns — and to spend the money on other priorities.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, it was “(t)hree environmental groups — the Friends of the River, the Sierra Club and the South Yuba Citizens League — [who] 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 an earthen hillside.”
It’s ironic that the same environmentalists who have opposed every new dam project were the ones who raised the alarm.
Countless proposals have been floated over the past two decades to fund infrastructure out of the general fund, and prioritize critically needed upgrades to dams, roads and bridges. But Sacramento spends a pittance out of it’s $180 billion budget on infrastructure, and most of that is earmarked for the abysmal roads and a crumbling intrastate highway system.
Instead, California’s Democrat-dominated leadership depend on bonds to bail them out.
Californians are probably scratching their heads wondering what happened to all the money they had approved for bonds over the past few decades — something close to $20 billion (not including the latest water bond, Proposition 1, which alone was $7.5 billion).
When a bond is approved, the money is allocated according to the official stated purpose and/or specific projects to be built. In fact, some of those bond accounts are still flush with hundreds of millions of unused dollars, which might have been approved by voters to use on existing infrastructure projects like shoring up the Oroville Dam.
But Gov. Jerry Brown never thought to ask them.
According to a PPIC report on how the money has been disbursed on the latest water bond, all the pork projects got funded, but not a penny has been allocated for water storage.
The chart on the report page will show you everything you need to know about Sacramento’s priorities. Even the so-called “Water Bond” hasn’t been used to shore up or expand our water storage infrastructure yet (in spite of projects being in the pipeline for decades):
To date, the awards have focused on addressing priorities related to urgent public health and safety issues and the drought. Thirty-one grants will help disadvantaged communities with safe drinking water and wastewater treatment projects, 19 grants will boost urban supplies with wastewater recycling projects, and 21 grants will support local efforts to better manage groundwater reserves. Another priority has been California’s ecosystems, which have been hit hard by the drought; 45 projects address water supply and habitat to support native species around the state.
No funds have been awarded yet for water storage, another key area for boosting drought resilience. This has led to some criticism that the pace of spending is too slow, but this overlooks the bond language, which laid out a two-year process for establishing funding criteria.
But there is one thing Gov. Brown has done in cooperation with federal officials regarding infrastructure. A little over a year ago, Brown signed off on an agreement to tear down dams on the Klamath River.
Yes, you can’t make this stuff up.
Brown did finally have his “rainy day” fund approved by voters in 2016. Yet California — the so-called sustainable state — has refused to maintain its infrastructure in order to sustain its way of life. Now the “rainy day” they’d hoped to avoid is here.
God be with all those in the pathway of potential destruction.
Tim Donnelly is a former California State Assemblyman.