The Oroville Dam Crisis – The Impacts and the Ways Forward

I sat down recently with Assembly Member James Gallagher (R – Yuba City) to talk about a major issue that hit close to home for him, the Oroville Dam crisis in February 2017. We talked at length about the issues at the dam, and with the spillway and emergency spillway which culminated in last year’s crisis that forced more than 180,000 people to evacuate their homes.

The biggest problems, from Asm. Gallagher’s point of view, start with the Department of Water Resources (DWR), and specifically, issues within that department that led to Oroville Dam being under maintained. The word most frequently tossed around related to DWR was group think.

Naturally in a conversation about the issues that created the Oroville Dam crisis, we discussed potential solutions as well. Currently, Asm. Gallagher has a bill in that’s in the State Senate that would require DWR to adopt better risk management procedures. There are also talks of more robust infrastructure improvements to the dam.

There’s also a bill by Senator Jim Nielsen (R – Gerber) – Asm. Gallagher’s counterpart in the State Senate – that would create a local oversight board for the Oroville Dam. On a person note, that’s an idea that I’m particularly intrigued by. And I would’ve been remiss if I didn’t ask about CEQA and what kind of reforms could be made to it long-term that would allow for streamlining some its requirements for preventative maintenance projects.

The other part of our conversation focused in on the economic impacts of the Oroville Dam crisis. Obviously, it’s the negative impacts that made headlines – roads damaged by having tens of thousands of cars on them at a time, families put out of their homes, farmers having their land washed away. But we also got a chance to talk about the less covered impacts, the positive impacts of recovery workers who were in the area 24/7 repairing the spillways who were staying in local hotels and buying food and goods at local establishments. Those positive impacts that came into play later on got discussed in our conversation as well.

All in all, this was a really fun and enlightening conversation. Enjoy!