President Donald Trump approved federal emergency relief funds Tuesday, following requests by California Governor Jerry Brown. The requests for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) aid pertain to flooding in January and the evacuation effort due to the risk of spillway collapse at the Oroville Dam.
The nearly 200,000 residents downstream of the Oroville Dam — the nation’s highest — were allowed to return home on Wednesday, but weregild by local authorities to remain “vigilant.”
Officials had managed to avert an expected structural collapse of the top portion of the dam’s emergency spillway by releasing massive amounts of water via the damaged mail spillway, lowering the level of the lake so that it no longer poured over the concrete berm at 901 feet above sea level. As it flowed down the hillside, the water moving over the emergency spillway had eroded the earth beneath the berm, creating a hole that engineers have been frantically filling with heavy rocks for two days.
Brown’s office released a statement Tuesday:
“I want to thank FEMA for moving quickly to approve our requests. This federal aid will get money and resources where it’s needed most.”
Yesterday, Governor Brown met with emergency response officials and sent a letter to the President and FEMA requesting a Presidential Emergency Declaration for Direct Federal Assistance to support the communities impacted by the situation at the Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway. Separately, last Friday, Governor Brown requested a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration for the state to bolster ongoing state and local recovery efforts following January storms that caused additional flooding, mudslides, erosion, power outages and damage to critical infrastructure across California.
On Sunday, Governor Brown declared a state of emergency to bolster the state’s response to the situation in Oroville and support local evacuations. The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services has also activated the State Operations Center in Mather, California to its highest level and is coordinating with personnel at the Incident Command Post in Oroville, California and with other local, state and federal emergency response officials to address all emergency management needs.
Meanwhile, questions remain about how the emergency situation at the dam was allowed to arise. Efforts to make the emergency spillway concrete — and hence less subject to erosion — were rejected by state and federal officials in 2005, and the San Francisco Chrocnicle reports that inspectors had not examined the stability of the hillside since 2008.
The crisis at the dam is ongoing, as the state awaits new storms in the next day or so. The rain and snow are expected to last for a week.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.