As 2018 was winding down, one of California’s leading newspapers suggested, via a front-page, banner-headlined article, that the drought that had plagued the state for much of this decade may be returning. Just weeks later, that same newspaper was reporting that record-level midwinter storms were choking mountain passes with snow, rapidly filling reservoirs and causing serious local flooding. Neither was incorrect at the time, but their juxtaposition underscores the unpredictable nature of California’s water supply. The fickleness of nature has been compounded by a decades-long, multi-front struggle among hundreds of water agencies and other interested parties over allocations of the precious liquid, not unlike the perpetual religious and ethnic wars that consumed medieval Europe.
Archive for date: May 18th, 2019
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Federal engineers are raising alarms that a “significant flood event” could compromise the spillway of Southern California’s aging Prado Dam and potentially inundate dozens of Orange County communities from Disneyland to Newport Beach. After conducting an assessment of the 78-year-old structure this month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it is raising the dam’s risk category from “moderate” to “high urgency.” “Our concern right now is about the concrete slab of the spillway and how well it will perform if water were to spill over the top of the dam,” said Lillian Doherty, the Army Corps’ division chief. “We will determine whether or not it is as reliable as it should be.”
President Trump signed a disaster declaration Saturday for 17 Northern California counties that endured battering rains and landslides this year, making them eligible for federal relief. The move followed three emergency proclamations this year by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who directed Caltrans to seek federal assistance for a string of brutal February storms that doused rural areas across the state, damaging roads and bridges. Newsom described the devastation in a letter to Trump last month in which he asked for the disaster declaration. “The storms caused widespread flash flooding, erosion, mud and debris flows, power outages, and damage to roadways and other critical infrastructure,” Newsom wrote. “In addition to the precipitation, heavy winds uprooted trees, impacting roads and power lines.”