SACRAMENTO (CBS13) —The Department of Water Resources is facing pushback from elected leaders as they try and secure licensing of the Oroville Dam for the next 50 years.
Every dam owner in America must have a license from the federal government to operate. DWR has been getting an extension for more than a decade.
2017 included the wettest January and February in 110 years. The heavy rains resulted in a spillway disaster, the evacuation of nearly 200,000 people, and damage to downstream property.
“What happened that caused this spillway to break down?” questioned Yuba City Assemblyman James Gallagher.
Gallagher says there are still too many unknowns about what led to the disaster.
“What we really want is a change is how this dam is operated because it’s operated in a way that puts our community at risk,” said Gallagher.
He says the final forensic report on what caused the spillway to break will shed light on dam operations. The final report by an independent team of forensic analysts is due out in mid-January.
“There has been a lot of frustration up there for a long time, and this has just brought it to a head,” said Gallagher.
“I don’t know that they truly understand the magnitude of which it affected this community and that it still affects this community,” said Jason Banks, the Mayor of Live Oak.
The memory of February’s emergency still sits with elected leaders as well as with farmers impacted by water releases.
“They know they did the damage, but they haven’t said a thing about how they’re going to fix it,” said one Marysville farmer, “they’re leaving that to us.”
This week, the Department of Water Resources urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to go through with licensing. They touted the public benefit.
In a letter, DWR wrote that there is “$1 billion in long-sought environmental and recreation improvements for the region” tied to the license. The improvements include floating campsites, and additional recreational trails and boating facilities.
A spokesperson telling CBS13 “DWR wants to follow through on its long-standing commitment to make these improvements and investments and can’t do that until the new license is issued.”
The final forensic report is expected to be released in mid-January. Meanwhile, the last step in licensing for DWR is a vote by the FERC commission which could happen in early 2018.