On Monday afternoon, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assemblyman James Gallagher’s dam safety bill into effect.
The legislation will improve dam inspections and update dam safety protocols.
“We want to have the highest level of safety at our dams in California, not middle of the pack, you know. We want to be the best,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher has been working on this bill, AB-1270, for about a year.
He says right now, the law requires dams to be inspected "from time to time," and obviously that was not adequate.
His bill takes care of that. It requires the Department of Water Resources to inspect high-hazard dams once a year, and low-hazard dams at least once every two years.
The division of safety of dams classifies the hazard levels on the potential threat to people and property. The bill also updates the actual inspection process.
“They have to do a deeper dive when looking at these facilities like look at the geology, what's going on underneath, look at the original designs and ask the question, like, ‘hey, are there things that need to be upgraded here and improved upon?’”
Along with that, it requires the DWR to consult with other, outside, dam-safety organizations and risk management organizations to get input about how they can improve their overall inspection protocols.
Gallagher says there are more than 100 dams in California that are more than 50-years-old.
“Doesn’t' mean that all those have problems, but you definitely should be looking back at the original designs because what might have been okay in 1960, standards could have changed, that we might now say ‘hey, that design might not be the best.’ That's exactly what happened to Oroville,” he said.
He says with this bill, every time there is a comprehensive review of a dam they will have to look at the original designs of the spillways and make sure that's still what they would do today, and if not, figure out how to make it better.