By Steve Large

WEST SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Dozens of farmers and business owners are now suing the State of California for damages from the Oroville Dam crisis.

The lawsuit alleges mismanagement led to the spillway failure and flooding that followed it.

Kent Lang is a West Sacramento walnut farmer who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

“It’s been hard,” Lang said.

For 80 years his family has grown walnut trees on farmland near the Sacramento River. That stopped this year when the trees died.

Pictures show Lang’s orchard submerged in water last summer, following the state’s decision to release of high volumes of water upstream, from the Oroville Dam after the spillway crumbled.

Lang says the flood water stood on his property six months, killing his crop.

“We’ve lost about 200 acres of walnuts in our farming operation due to that flooding,” Lang said.

The loss has been devastating for Lang and his partners.

“About $22 million,” Lang said.

Now he is suing the state for damages, claiming the Department of Water Resources mismanagement led to the Oroville Dam crisis.

Court documents read, “inspection reports spanning nearly two decades … indicate DWR delayed or intentionally ignored a wide variety of maintenance and management issues.”

“The mistake was not having Oroville Dam properly maintained,” Lang said. “And no one, no one person in charge.”

A family orchard is now struggling to span the next generation.

“And if the boys were not here, I think I would have thrown the towel in and gone home,” Lang said.

Lang also says the ripple effects have continued to his employees. He typically would have 25 employees, but he’s been forced to lay off half of them.

A spokeswoman for DWR said she could not comment on pending litigation.


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