Assembly Bill 1270, the Dams and Reservoirs: Inspections and Reporting bill, authored by Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-3rd District-Yuba City) has been held until the final day of the 2017 legislative session. Rep. Gallagher, whose district includes Oroville and the severely damaged Oroville Dam, has expressed his frustration over the situation in Sacramento but has vowed to, “not stop fighting.”
The bill would repeal the existing statute on dam safety which currently requires, “…the Department of Water Resources (DWR), from time to time, to make inspections of dams and reservoirs at state expense for the purpose of determining their safety.” AB 1270 as revised last Tuesday would, “…repeal those provisions and instead would require the Division of Safety of Dams to inspect dams, reservoirs, and critical appurtenant structures within its jurisdiction once per fiscal year with the exception of low hazard potential dams which the bill would require to receive inspections, at a minimum, every two fiscal years, as specified. The bill would provide that the dam inspection reports are public records subject to the California Public Records Act. The bill would require the Division of Safety of Dams, in consultation with independent, national dam safety and dam safety risk management organizations to, on or before January 1, 2019, and every ten years thereafter, propose amendments to its existing dam safety regulations to incorporate updated best practices, including risk management, to ensure public safety. The bill would require the Division of Safety of Dams to report to the Governor, the Legislature, and the department on amendments developed pursuant to these provisions.”
The Oroville Dam crisis prompted upwards of 200,000 downstream residents to evacuate when the potential of the dam’s collapse following the dam’s spillway sustaining severe damage during February’s heavy rains. The situation was further complicated by an atmospheric river that stalled over the Oroville area for some three days. Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow bands of high water vapor that transport moisture from tropical regions into the mid-latitudes. As a result of the heavy rains, flooding and the dam crisis, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered an emergency response.
Though Rep. Gallagher was generous in his praise of the work being done to repair the dam’s spillway on his Facebook page – “The team at Kiewit and all of the men and women working on this repair job really do need to be commended by those of us living downstream. I’m told DWR will meet the November 1st deadline and by the progress being made, I think they will. Still other issues to sort out, but wanted to give some praise.” – he took to social media again, just hours later, to question whether, “…Will my dam safety legislation make it through to the Governor’s desk today? Or will it get held up with last minute antics? We shall see, it’s going to be another late night.”