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After Storms, Oroville, Brown Proposes Almost $500M In Flood Upgrades

@CA_DWR / Twitter

@CA_DWR / Twitter

In response to this year’s storms and the emergency at Oroville Dam, California Governor Jerry Brown wants to expedite a half-billion dollars in funding for flood repairs and upgrades.

If approved by lawmakers, the plan would only marginally increase the total amount of money for water infrastructure, but use already set-aside funds more quickly. That includes spending $400 million from the water bond voters approved in 2014 for local flood control projects over the next two years.

Other funding, including $50 million from designated in this year's budgets to catch up on levee maintenance, would instead be used to update emergency response plans, make immediate repairs in areas still at risk of flooding this season, and assess risks at levees.

The governor also called for new, deeper inspections of state and federal dams, after the near-collapse of Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway. Still, Brown rejects criticism that the state should have caught problems that led to the crisis.

Environmental groups warned a decade ago that unless the earthen spillway was reinforced with cement, it could erode in a flood.

"What about PG&E and their gas pipes? Everywhere you look, the bridge (the new Bay Bridge), this is what happens," Brown said. "And we try to correct and we try to do the best that we can. But if we want to guard against any problem 100 percent, you’d have to quadruple the spending, and that wouldn’t make any sense."

Brown has proposed $3 million for deeper inspections of spillways and outlets at state-owned dams, and asked the federal government to do the same.

Outside the press conference room where Brown announced his proposal, Kathryn Phillips of the Sierra Club said she agrees all infrastructure has risks.

"I think it makes it that much more important when organizations or individuals point out a real problem, that you should take that real problem seriously," Phillips said.

The proposal Brown announced Friday would seek to address near-term flood challenges, but the governor says the state has about $50 billion in long-term flood needs and lacks funds for them.

The Brown Administration projects damage from rains and floods this winter, including the Oroville Dam spillway, will cost upwards of $1 billion.

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