On February 13th, 2017 residents in Oroville, CA, were given a last second, panicked directive to evacuate their homes and flee the area due to concerns that the Oroville dam was about to imminently fail. At the time of this article, the dam has still not yet failed. Should it fail though, California’s government may face tough questions about their failure to adequately prepare for a disaster they had been warned about for over a decade.
California negligently failed to make preparations for the inevitable end to a major drought which had been occurring since 2011. For 12 years, environmental groups had warned federal and state officials that the dam was likely to experience structural issues in the event of heavy rains and flooding.
Reports are surfacing that the large pothole which has lead to the failure of the Oroville dam spillway was known to the state government as early as 2013. Governor Jerry Brown had years to direct the Democrat controlled state government to authorize funding and enact plans for repairs to the dam while water levels remained low. The Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 set aside $395,000,000 for flood management, but to date has not allocated any of it to actual repairs or projects, raising questions about where the money currently sits and what it has been used for since 2014.
California’s corruption causes it to consistently approve projects which are financially and logistically convenient for special interest groups at the expense of their citizens. Energy companies in Southern California are currently being sued by citizens over plans to bury nuclear waste from the reactors at San Onofre, California underwater in thin canisters without any clear explanation about how they would monitor the storage devices or explaining how the canisters will be removed once the 20 year approval permit has expired. The ill conceived project was approved by the California Coastal Commission in 2015. The California Coastal Commission was created by Governor Jerry Brown and has been itself the source of controversy after they fired their executive director Charles Lester, who was described as an “essential line of protection between developers and environmentalists.” The Commission is currently the subject of multiple lawsuits, all of which allege that Coastal Commission members have had improper private contacts with permit applicants (ex-parte communications) with developers or their representatives prior to voting on those permits.
Jerry Brown himself has recently come under scrutiny as well, after a February 1st, 2017 report by the Los Angeles Times revealed that Governor Brown still retained $15 million in campaign funds with no clear guidelines as to how he would spend it. This story follows reports that Brown’s Chief of Staff Nancy McFadden took over a million dollars from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and continued to hold stock in PG&E despite playing a key role in the appointment process for new members of the state Public Utilities Commission, which regulates PG&E and other California utilities (including the ones behind the controversial plans for San Onofre’s nuclear waste).