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New Bill Proposes Changing Dam Oversight

Butte County, Calif.--A new bill, if passed, may soon remove the Department of Water Resources from supervising the state's dams and reservoirs.

Posted: Apr 11, 2018 4:11 PM

Butte County, Calif.--A new bill, if passed, may soon remove the Department of Water Resources from supervising the state's dams and reservoirs.

Assembly Bill 3045 is the second piece of legislation introduced by Assembly Member James Gallagher and co-authored by Senator Jim Nielsen focused on dam safety.

Currently, the DWR is responsible for the state's more than 1,500 dams and reservoirs, as well as operations and maintenance of the california state water project, which supplies water to more than 26 million Californians.

But that may soon change.

"For me, it's just about doing what I think is right and trying to implement the reforms that I think are necessary," said Gallagher in a phone interview with Action News Now.

The latest attempt at reform is Assembly Bill 3045 which is proposing that authority over the state's dams and reservoirs would be taken away from the Department of Water Resources, and instead transferred over to the Division of Safety and Dams within the Natural Resources Agency.

Assembly Member James Gallagher said there is a clear conflict of interest happening at the DWR. 

"I think everybody would agree that if you're the operator, you shouldn't also be the regulator. That's just good government policy and it helps ensure that there's independence from the operation and the same group that owns and operates isn't also regulating it," he said.

Gallagher pointed to the forensic report which found that the DWR ignored design flaws such as cracking that should've indicated a bigger problem.

"There was a group think mentality at the dwr and they weren’t able to provide the kind of oversight that needed to be provided," he said.

On Tuesday the Butte County Board of supervisors approved a letter expressing their support for this bill.

Casey Hatcher is the Economic and Community Development manager for Butte County and said the safety of residents is the main priority.

"The safety of Oroville Dam is paramount to downstream communities and it's just not really appropriate for the agency that runs the facility, to also be providing oversight,” Hatcher said.

"180,000 people were evacuated because things weren't done properly up there, and I want to make sure that going forward not only do we do the right thing but that we put the right processes in place," Gallagher said.

This bill is now being discussed in the water committee, which Gallagher is the vice-chair of but he said he's proud of the bipartisan support it has gotten so far.

DWR spokesperson Erin Mellon said they do not comment on pending legislation.

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A Pacific storm is now moving into northern California. The clouds have arrived, the wind is getting stronger, and we can expect areas of rain and snow tonight, and it will be heavy at times. Snow will fall down to the valley floor through Wednesday morning.
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