Spurred by heavy state, national and international media attention on the Oroville Dam crisis, California Governor Jerry Brown on February 24 announced a series of “immediate and longer-term actions” to bolster dam safety, improve flood protection and fix the state’s aging transportation and water infrastructure.
“Recent storms have pounded the state of California resulting in a dam spillway eroding, roads crumbling and levees failing,” said Governor Brown. “Our aging infrastructure is maxed-out. We can take some immediate actions – and we will – but going forward we’ll need billions more in investment.”
In a press conference at the State Capitol Friday, Brown told reporters, “There is real work to be done. We got to belly up to the bar and start spending money.”
Brown’s plan will redirect $50 million from the General Fund and request a $387 million Proposition 1 appropriation from the Legislature as soon as possible, according to Brown’s Office.
In addition, the Brown administration plans to require emergency action plans and flood inundation maps for all dams; enhance California’s existing dam inspection program; and seek prompt regulatory action and increased funding from the federal government to improve dam safety.
On February 22, the Governor made a surprise visit to the Incident Command Post in Oroville and surveyed the regional flood control system, including areas recently impacted by flooding. This was the first time since the crisis began on February 7 that Brown visited Oroville.
Brown’s funding package does not include money to fix the Oroville Dam’s primary spillway or auxiliary spillway, where severe erosion spurred the evacuation of over 188,000 residents of Butte, Yuba and Sutter counties on February 12.
“That expense is the responsibility of the more than 20 water districts and other water contractors that get water from the reservoir, the Department of Finance said Friday,” the Sacramento Bee reported: www.sacbee.com/…
“Even with today’s action, California has nearly $50 billion in unmet flood management infrastructure needs,” the Governor’s Office noted. “To address these needs, the Administration will continue to work with the Legislature through the budget process on solutions, including potential changes to Proposition 218, which continues to prevent local government from fixing core infrastructure.”
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta, responded to the Governor’s announcement in a statement, indicating agreement with Brown on the necessity for spending money on flood control improvements, but challenging him on whether he will continue pushing the controversial California Water Fix or other big new infrastructure projects.
“We agree with Governor Brown about the need to spend for flood control improvements. $437 million in expenditures is a start,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “What remains to be seen is if he will promote smart expenditures that will augment water supply, while protecting the environment and environmental justice communities. Or will Governor Brown continue promoting big new infrastructure projects like the Delta Tunnels that will not solve flood problems or drought challenges, and that only serve the profit motive of Big Ag and special corporate interests?”
“Restore the Delta is creating a list of water projects in the weeks to come that will serve flood control and water supply demands while protecting the environment and environmental justice communities. We will share our findings with government leaders and the press. It is time for all Californians to have equity at the water planning table,” she stated.
In all of the media coverage of Oroville Dam spillway crisis over the past 2-1/2 weeks, the mainstream media haven’t yet discussed the real issue behind the disaster: corporate control of California water politics.
The reason why state officials and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ignored a motion to intervene by Friends of the River, the Sierra Club and the South Yuba Citizens League in October 2005 wasn’t because of incompetence or negligence.
I believe it is because Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown spent all of their energy and money over the past decade into pushing the water bond and Delta Tunnels, rather than repairing and fixing existing infrastructure such as the Oroville Dam spillway, at the behest of corporate agribusiness interests and the Metropolitan Water District.
To read the untold story of the Oroville Dam crisis, go to: www.dailykos.com/…