Brown’s Dam Disaster
AGENDA 21 RADIO
BY LOU BINNINGER
The current life-threatening ecological disaster at Oroville Dam spawned by Governor Brown and his liberal accomplices inflicted damages on Yuba, Sutter and Butte County residents. No one drowned but some with fragile health conditions died while being moved in the sudden evacuation order. Lost business income, wages and money spent to relocate is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Citizens need no engineering degree to see the sore condition of roads, bridges and dams. In Oroville Dam’s case the negligence and misappropriation of funds certainly is unethical if not criminal. The governor played stupid at his news conference claiming no knowledge of past scathing critiques of the dam’s readiness to handle a taxing storm event.
Brown’s Tortured Logic
Brown described the current crisis and the government’s response as standard operating procedure. Something breaks, you fix it. Brown’s tortured logic means replacing your roof after water is pouring through rather than when you notice the shingles fraying. Someone wipe the drool from his chin.
Engineering analyses of the auxiliary ‘faux’ spillway reveal it not just to be a joke, but a fraud. The fact that mature trees and shrubs were allowed to cover the spillway terrain indicate a belief that the element would never be used.
Friends of the River, the Sierra Club and the South Yuba Citizens League — filed a motion with the federal government on Oct. 17, 2005, as part of Oroville Dam’s relicensing process, urging officials to require that the dam’s emergency (auxiliary) spillway be armored with concrete, rather than remain an earthen hillside.
Feds at the time said the emergency spillway was designed to handle 350,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) and the concerns were exaggerated. On Sunday February 12, with light flows of only 6,000 to 12,000 cfs — water only a foot or two deep and less than 5 percent of the rate that the feds said was safe — erosion was so severe that officials from the Department of Water Resources ordered the evacuation of more than 185,000 people.
The fear was that the erosion could undermine the 1,730-foot-long concrete curved lip along the top of the earthen spillway allowing billions of gallons of water to pour unchecked down the hillside toward Oroville and Yuba-Sutter Counties.
“This is not a drill. Repeat this is not a drill,”
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea’s blunt dire call describing the dam’s trouble prompted a mandatory evacuation order by Yuba and Sutter Counties, but only a “strongly recommended” exhortation from Yuba City.
In Yuba County today, the sheriff makes the evacuation order. That is a change from the 1997 flood when the Board of Supervisors made the decision. In that event Sheriff Gary Tindel’s request for a mandatory evacuation early on to give people enough time to move themselves, their assets and livestock from the threatening rivers was rejected.
Days later when the levee gave way 3 people drowned, 322 houses were destroyed, and 407 other homes sustained major damage. The flood inundated 1,000 acres of residential, 15,500 acres of agricultural and 1,700 acres of industrial land. Nearly all livestock drowned and all business inventories lost as 38,000 people relocated. People fled with water at their backs.
Yuba County Sheriff Steve Durfor said there was no question what to do when he received the call from Sheriff Honea on Sunday. Durfor said Honea’s description of a potential breach in the dam would be an unprecedented disaster incomparable even to Yuba County’s sudden levee breaks in 1986 and 1997.
Emergencies are never easy, often described as managed chaos. In this case our counties were not in charge of the cause but were responsible to protect the citizens. Other complicating factors were that evacuees don’t all respond the same to crisis. Some panic and others give-up. Some are givers and others are takers. There are those who are sick, fragile or immobile and need assistance.
Emergency personnel, churches, nonprofits and Good Samaritans worked around the clock to cope with a difficult and trying emergency.
There was some dysfunction. The mixed evacuation message between Yuba City and Sutter County created confusion for a highly stressed populace. Facebook ‘scientists’ and ‘news’ mavens caused panic with their ‘inside information.’
Our high tech devices were not always the best information delivery system. Did anyone get the “flash flood” text on that sunny Sunday?
Many older people don’t have smart phones or computers. All the technology and social media have yet to replace ‘low-tech’ live radio broadcasts giving instructions and updates around the clock derived from those managing the emergency.
As thousands of cars waited hours to get to high ground, a designated radio station keeping everyone focused might have brought calm and taken pressure off the phone banks and 911 dispatchers. It certainly could have exposed the frustrating rumors.