You can’t make this stuff up

While California water officials deal with historic flooding and neglected infrastructure as well as emergency efforts to protect people and property from the next storms, our federal bureaucracy is also hard at work. Except its hard work is directed at putting up roadblocks to the very emergency repairs California officials are rushing to complete.

Recommendations could slow recovery efforts

A four-page letter sent recently to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) makes outrageous recommendations that will confound efforts to begin repairing the damage at Oroville Dam. FERC maintains authority over the Oroville Hydroelectric Project.

The California Department of Water Resources stopped releases from Oroville’s main spillway on Monday, February 27 in order to begin dredging soil and concrete that are blocking Oroville’s power plant. Getting the power plant back on line will help regulate releases from the dam during the remainder of the rainy season, which will enhance public safety.

Just work at night

The NMFS letter makes 22 requests that it believes would minimize the effect on anadromous fish species and habitat on the Feather River. Those recommendations include:

  • Only working on Oroville repairs at night, instead of letting repair work proceed as quickly as possible.
  • Ramping flows up and down as slowly as possible, which would inhibit the ability to get prepared for the next storms
  • Maintaining minimum flows at all times, again obstructing necessary preparations for the next wave of storms
  • Taking time away from necessary repairs to survey the locations of fish that may still be in the river, and mandating a detailed level of data-collection down to checking date, time and location stamp on cameras.
  • Requiring time taken away from emergency needs to “deploy as many people as possible” to survey fish.

Repairs must occur quickly

There are more storms on the horizon as well as a record snowpack eager to melt this spring. Time is of the essence. DWR was right to shut the spillway and begin work as soon as possible in order to begin the clean up. The 180,000 people who evacuated two weeks ago should not be held hostage to a bureaucratic process that will slow progress on repairing the storm damage.

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