Governor Brown Monday signed Assemblyman Gallagher’s (R-Yuba City) dam safety legislation, AB 1270, which will improve dam inspections and update dam safety protocols. Gallagher introduced the legislation last year after the failure of the Oroville water release spillways.
On February 7th, 2017, after releasing water from a series of heavy storms, the spillway at Oroville dam collapsed. Authorities were forced to use the untested emergency spillway, which also eroded, forcing the evacuation of almost 200,000 people. Had the emergency spillway completely broken, a three-story wall of water would have come down the Feather River, causing unimaginable destruction to communities downstream.
“The Oroville disaster jeopardized lives, property, and California’s water supply and conveyance system. The silver lining is that the crisis highlighted we must do more to ensure we are taking care of vital infrastructure, like the levees and dams that protect our communities. AB 1270 will help us do this by ensuring that California leads national and global efforts to update and modernize dam safety requirements,” said Gallagher.
AB 1270, which takes effect immediately, requires the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to work with independent dam safety and risk management organizations to update dam safety protocols. These protocols must address deficiencies identified by the forensic team that investigated the failure, such as a comprehensive review of the original design and construction of dams and spillways.
The bill also requires DWR to inspect all dams that are classified as “significant” hazard or higher at least once per fiscal year, and dams that are “low” hazard (dams that would not jeopardize lives or property in the event of a failure) at least once every two fiscal years. To ensure thorough inspections, AB 1270 sets standards for what must be done during an inspection. This includes evaluation of seepage conditions and available instrumentation and geological data, as well as inspection of the major features of the dam including its groins, abutments, spillways, and outlet works. Lastly, the bill requires that inspection reports are made available for public review.