Recently I toured Oroville Dam, in Northern California, with other legislators to get a firsthand look at repairs underway. Fortunately, though almost 200,000 people downstream were evacuated during the dam spillway break last year, a major disaster was averted. Escondido has two dams, one at Lake Dixon and one at Lake Wohlford. My district also has parts of Lake Hodges which has a dam we see from Via de la Valle roadway.
Dams in California are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Water Resources, Division of Safety of Dams. In the aftermath of the Oroville spillway failure, the Division has ordered spillway inspections at 93 high-risk dams.
The need for more water storage capacity was obvious to voters in 2014 when they passed Proposition 1, a $7.2 billion water bond that included $2.7 billion earmarked for new dams and reservoirs. But proposals for them are being delayed by the California Water Commission, the agency tasked with dispersing funds under the provisions of Proposition 1.
I joined a bipartisan group of legislators criticizing these delays in building 11 water projects, including the Sites Reservoir in Colusa County and the Temperance Flat Dam east of Fresno. In light of what may be a recurring drought and deep federal cutbacks on water allocations for California farmers, more water storage projects must be approved. It’s been almost four years since passage of Prop. 1 and to date, no new water storage projects have been approved.
A four year delay on new water projects was clearly not what 67 percent of California’s voters had in mind when they passed Prop. 1. We need to expand our water storage capacity statewide, including our southern California region now — further bureaucratic delays cannot be tolerated!