Legislature passes Gallagher’s dam safety bill 

One year ago, hundreds of thousands of North Sacramento Valley residents were forced to evacuate their homes as the result of the spillway failures at the Oroville Dam.

On Monday, Feb. 12, the one-year anniversary of this mass evacuation, the California Legislature passed Assemblyman James Gallagher’s dam safety legislation, AB 1270.

Gallagher wrote the legislation following a series of heavy storms last year that caused the spillway at Oroville dam to collapse on Feb. 7, 2017, forcing authorities to use the untested emergency spillway, which also eroded and forced the evacuation of almost 200,000 people.

Gallagher, R-Yuba City, said had the emergency spillway 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,” Gallagher said, in a statement on Monday. “The silver lining is that the crisis highlighted that 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.”

AB 1270 will require the Department of Water Resources to work with independent dam safety and risk management organizations to update dam safety protocols.

These protocols must include things identified the by the forensic team as contributing to the spillway failure, like the review of the original design and construction of dams and auxiliary structures like spillways, according to the legislation.

“Most of our dams are over 50 years old, and many are considered high risk, said Sen. Jim Nielsen, a co-author of the bill. “We must do the necessary work to identify deficiencies and correct them.”

AB 1270 now heads to the Governor’s desk where, if signed, it would take effect immediately.■