Feds Spend $22.8 Million Helping California Fix The Dam It Neglected For Years

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Tim Pearce Energy Reporter
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California is receiving $22.8 million from federal disaster officials to aid in cleanup procedures for the February collapse of the Oroville River Dam spillway, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Wednesday.

The Oroville River Dam crisis led Lake Oroville to overflow and endangered hundreds of thousands of people.

Both federal and state governments had been warned about the condition of the spillway from as far back as 2005. The crisis caused $500 million in damages. California contends the federal government should pay 75 percent but, depending on the findings of federal investigators, the state may receive significantly less, the Ventura County Star reports.

“That [$22.8 million] was just the first of many reimbursements,” California Department of Water Resources (DWR) spokeswoman Erin Mellon said, according to the Ventura County Star.

Despite what Mellon says, emergency federal funds to the state may be cut off if federal regulators believe the crisis was caused by lack of routine maintenance.

“Is there a maintenance issue here, because they’re not going to cover that. If it’s an emergency response, they’re going to cover,” then-DWR director Bill Croyle told lawmakers in May according to the Ventura County Star.

Three environmental groups filed a petition to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reinforce the Oroville River Dam spill in 2005. The groups claimed that the dam, completed in 1968, did not meet modern safety standards. FERC rejected the petition on the advice of the California DWS, The Mercury News reports.

During the dam’s last inspection in 2015, regulators inspected the spillway “from some distance,” the regulators’ report said according to the Redding Record Searchlight.

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