Groups take on state at Oroville
Earlier this month, this column lamented the state's decision not to include flood control as an issue for the relicensing of Oroville Dam.
Never mind. Things have changed, and you can thank your environmental groups for paying attention.
Friends of the River, the Sierra Club and the South Yuba River Citizens League have filed a motion with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to intervene in the relicensing.
Their issue? Flood control.
Simply put, they contend, Oroville's design is inadequate because there isn't the Marysville Dam controlling the Yuba River as the planners of Oroville had anticipated.
As a result, Oroville has an ungated, overpour spillway along with the main, gated spillway.
“The unarmored, ungated spillway design approved under the original license was based on the erroneous assumption that Marysville Dam would be completed in the then near future and the ungated spillway would soon be relegated exclusively to emergency purposes,” the motion said.
As a result, “The lack of a spillway for the ungated spillway in the circumstances prevailing at Oroville Dam does not meet FERC's Engineering Guidelines for service or auxiliary spillways,” according to the motion.
The environmental groups are asking FERC to require the state to “armor or otherwise reconstruct the ungated spillway and to make any other needed modifications so that the (state) can safely and confidently conduct required surcharge operations consistent with the Corps of Engineers Oroville Dam Reservoir Regulation Manual.”
They also are asking FERC to require the state to work with the Army Corps of Engineers to “improve the plan of floodwater-management operations at Oroville Dam - including surcharge, as well as forecast and coordinated, flood operations. The commission should establish deadlines for the licensee to complete these actions.”
The environmental groups said they “have repeatedly urged” the state, which owns the dam, to address the flood control issue.
“Oroville spillway deficiencies, their impact on flood management operations and the need for the licensee to address these issues have been discussed at nearly every Yuba Feather Work Group meeting for several years,” according to the motion.
The state's response, as this column noted Oct. 9, was to put the onus on the corps for flood control.
FERC, the motion noted, “is not alone in highlighting the importance of ensuring that facilities (and operating procedures) properly support the floodwater-management operations of a multipurpose dam.”
In the case of Oroville Dam, “given the large populations living behind levees in deep flood basins of the Feather, Sacramento and American Rivers downstream, the commission and the (state) have a duty to ensure that the licensed facilities of this major upstream high-hazard dam are consistent with the flood-operations requirements adopted by the Army Corps of Engineers for Oroville Dam, if the dam is to have its intended floodwater-management benefits.”
And, the motion warned, “The potential consequences of not meeting this duty for a large urban area (either from abandoning operational use of surcharge space or from a meaningful loss of crest control at the dam) have been vividly illustrated by the recent flooding of deep flood plains in New Orleans.”
Harold Kruger's column, Off Beat, appears on Sundays. E-mail him at email@example.com, call him at 530-749-4717; or fax him at 530-741-0140. You can also write him at the Appeal-Democrat, P.O. Box 431, Marysville, CA 95901-0431.