Congress rejects requiring a new environmental impact report for damaged Oroville Dam

WASHINGTON, D.C.
November 12, 2017 9:02pm
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•  Congressman says to much has changed to merely rubber stamp license renewal

•  “My message to FERC is clear”

Oroville Dam repairs

(DWR photo)

Efforts have failed to get the House of Representatives to order the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to require a new supplemental environment impact statement for Oroville Dam before it issues it a renewed license.

The dam was seriously damaged last February.

U.S. Reps. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield and Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, tried to attach an amendment to hydropower legislation making its way through Congress to force the review.

Had the dam’s spillway collapsed as was feared, a 30-toot wall of water would be washed over Oroville and other communities along the Feather River. More than 180,000 residents -- as far south from the dam as Yuba City -- were hurriedly evacuated the night of February 17.

FERC is now in the process of relicensing the dam, the congressmen say.

They call for a new supplemental environmental impact statement for the dam, noting that last one is at least a decade old. Since then, there have been significant changes ranging from flaws found in the dam’s construction to the silting of Feather River, resulting in less capacity for the river to carry dam runoff.

“There are serious negative environmental impacts that have resulted from the damaged spillway,” Mr. Garamendi said on the floor of the House.

“A failure by FERC to require a supplemental environmental impact statement would be a serious abdication of FERC's responsibility,” he said. “My message to FERC is clear: You must do this so that there is full protection and full understanding of the potential impact that this dam will have on communities, our water supply, as well as flooding.”

Repairs to the dam’s spillways are underway by Kiewit Corp. When finished, it is expected to be much stronger than the original construction done in the 1960s. The final cost of the repair project is now expected to hit $500 million, nearly double the original estimate.

The hydropower legislation was approved by the House and is now in the U.S. Senate.


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