California Drought Water Legislation
California Drought Water Legislation

SB 955 moves to Senate Rules Committee

Senate Bill 955, introduced in January by Senator Jim Nielsen (R-4th District-Red Bluff) to create a citizens advisory commission for the Oroville Dam, has been amended and referred on to the Senate Rules Committee. The bill aims to form a commission of 27 members to serve in an advisory role regarding the Oroville Dam as a result of the February 2017 Oroville Dam Spillways’ crisis.

The proposed legislation – the Oroville Dam: Citizens Commission — comes on the heels of the Oroville Dam Coalition’s lobbying efforts to obtain additional community involvement. If approved, the legislation would be an addition — Part 3, commencing with Section 6600 — to Division 3 of the Water Code. The February 2017 Oroville crisis saw upwards of 200,000 local people and hundreds of business downstream of the Oroville Dam evacuate the area in anticipation of a possible dam failure.

The Citizens Advisory Commission for Oroville Dam would be an independent entity within the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and consist of 27 members, appointed as prescribed to three-year terms of office and would include seven members appointed by specified cities and three members representing specified counties. Commission members could also include representatives of city and county governments, various local Chambers of Commerce, DWR, elected officials, law enforcement, organized labor and water contractors.

The bill would require the department to provide the commission with quarterly onsite tours of the dam and its grounds and to clarify and respond to early comments provided by the commission on certain reports about the dam. The bill would also require the commission to meet at least once every three months or, on the call of the chairperson, as often as necessary, and would authorize the commission to hold a closed meeting at the request of the chairperson for the purposes of disclosure of sensitive information regarding the safety or security of the dam. The commission would be responsible for publishing a report at least once every three years that provides, among other things, an overview of ongoing maintenance and improvements made at the dam and its site.

The bill would prohibit the commission from making regulations or rules binding the operations at the dam. The commission would function in strictly an advisory capacity.

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