I’ve written so often about rain and dams this year that I’m beginning to feel a bit like David McCullough whose first book was the awe-inspiring "The Johnstown Flood." Only this time the dam is in California, not Pennsylvania. Though thousands didn’t die, 200,000 were briefly evacuated.
If you will recall this series of columns was about the end of a drought. Normally this is considered great news, particularly when the state has been dry so long that water rationing was imposed and the situation became so serious that even the politicians quit using tax dollars and scarce water to wash their cars.
I suppose only in California can government incompetence and bureaucratic lassitude turn the good news of the drought’s end into a near disaster.
The place where it all came home was in the vicinity of the Oroville Dam, which contains the water of Lake Oroville. This manmade lake is no stock pond. The dam, which is part earthen, is 770 feet tall and must withstand the pressure of the 1 trillion gallons of water.
It goes without saying that Lake Oroville is one of the state’s largest.
When water comes cascading down the dam and hits the spillway it is traveling at speeds over 50 mph. The California Department of Water Resources assured residents of the area that the dam and spillway were more than capable of withstanding any rain.
Then the rains came and the spillway failed spectacularly. You can refresh your memory by reading my earlier columns here, here and here.
The failure was no surprise to outside experts that warned the construction of the spillway was inadequate, but it took California government "experts" by surprise. Fortunately, the dam and spillway didn’t fail completely, although it was a close run thing today as Wellington used.
Now The Washington Post reports California is in a rush to "replace the entire spillway infrastructure, which was doomed to fail, according to an independent analysis." The deadline for replacement is Nov. 1, which is just before the winter rain is due.
And since the deadline is so close the state has determined the best way to speed up the process is to detonate the spillway with a series of controlled explosions. And guess what? California experts assure us the process is absolutely safe.
Personally, I’m glad I don’t live anywhere near the dam reconstruction, so I’m not forced to put my trust in the assurances of California bureaucrats. I just send my share of tax dollars, millions this time, to fix the errors of a government that can’t handle infrastructure.
Michael Reagan, the eldest son of President Reagan, is a Newsmax TV analyst. A syndicated columnist and author, he chairs The Reagan Legacy Foundation. Michael is an in-demand speaker with Premiere speaker’s bureau. Read more reports from Michael Reagan — Go Here Now.