Lessons (Hopefully Learned) from the Oroville Dam Disaster

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

February 24, 2017

For decades, the California Legislature’s priorities have been horribly misguided. Year after year, Sacramento has passed legislation that encourages more illegal immigration even though schools, roads and some hospitals are crumbling. Entitlements that provide driver’s licenses, health care and education to a never-ending immigration wave cost California taxpayers billions of dollars. The state’s education bill alone reaches about $10 billion annually. Harboring criminal aliens in sanctuary state California also sets taxpayers back a bundle. All the while Sacramento has refused to acknowledge that the state’s vital infrastructure was in desperate need of repair.

With more rain predicted, Brown needs to spend on infrastructure repairs, not illegal immigrant entitlements.

Governor Jerry Brown is a long-standing critic of President Trump. In recent months, Brown ramped up his attack on Trump, and defied the White House on stricter immigration enforcement and for his executive order to limit refugee resettlement. During Trump’s campaign, Brown resorted to calling Trump nasty names, including “a fraud” and a liar.

But after bashing Trump for months, the Oroville Dam disaster forced Brown to go to the president hat-in-hand, and plead for emergency federal assistance to help California dig out from the crisis that forced about 200,000 to flee the area. Trump, more gracious than Brown, committed to fund the Oroville Dam spillway damage and to assist with the mass evacuations.

Brown has demonstrated colossally bad judgment by not prioritizing infrastructure repairs. Adrienne Alvord, Western states director of the Union of Concerned Scientists and a water expert, said that her organization’s prior warnings to make safety improvements to the dam “may well have averted this crisis if they had been heeded.” The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission warned the California Department of Water Resources about “the potential for additional issues.”

As Tim Donnelly, a former California Assemblyman and current radio talk show host said, California “has been so busy defying President Donald Trump in order to protect illegal aliens from deportation that it forgot to do the things government is supposed to do, like maintain infrastructure.” Some in the Assembly hope that the Oroville crisis will serve as a wake-up call to more properly allocate scarce monies to upgrade crumbling infrastructure. Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Southern California Association of Governments, estimates a 10-year, $296 billion backlog of maintenance for the state as a whole, and a $190 billion backlog for the six counties his association represents.

Unfortunately, Trump didn’t attach conditions to the money he pledged to bail California out. Trump could have reasonably asked Brown to, in the future, focus first on what Sacramento needs to fix in California instead of welcoming the world, a pricey and unsustainable endeavor.

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