The dam issue

Submitted: Jun 25, 2017
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 “We completed a reconnaissance-level assessment of the spillway at Lopez Dam and have noted that structure may have potential geologic, structural, or performance issues that could jeopardize its ability to safely pass a flood event,” the letter stated.

"We did a superficial inspection and determined that the dam is unsafe in the event of a flood?" Is that what the flakperson was trying not quite to say?

What is a reconnaissance-level assessment? Were helicopters involved?

"Noted?" On what? To whom? Probably to themselves, so that they would be covered in case of a "flood event." But what about just a flood?

"Geologic, structural, or performance issues?" Like, there are things to debate about the geology, the structure and the performance of the dam? Who will debate them? People that speak language like this?

If "the state," whoever is representing "the state" on this problem, reviews the reviews local operators write about original design, building materials, etc., will "the state" issue a definitive report on the matter? Will that be the end of "the state's" involvement with "the issue"? Or will it issue an official Statement of Dam Issues?

Although we can't seem to find it on the Internet, we remember that Gov. Gray Davis's office issued such a report c. 2000-2001. That report found that very few California dams were truly safe.

--blj

 

 

 

6-13-17

Los Angeles Times

State orders in-depth assessments of more than 50 California dams following Oroville crisis

Joseph Serna

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-dam-assessment-letters-20170613-story.html

 

 

 

Months after the Oroville Dam crisis, state regulators are ordering sweeping inspections of aging dams throughout California to determine whether they, too, have vulnerabilities.

The move comes as state officials are still trying to determine precisely what caused both spillways at the Oroville Dam to fail, prompting the evacuation of numerous towns downstream of the reservoir.

The Oroville Dam was built five decades ago, but officials noted that other dams in the state are much older.

“Many of these dams are 50 to 100 years old, and it was a different era,” said Daniel Meyersohn, supervising engineer for the California Department of Water Resources’ Division of Safety of Dams.

The state wants local operators to review each structure’s original design and building materials, its repair history for recurring issues, its drainage system, retaining walls and the geological makeup of its bedrock, among other elements, Meyersohn said.

More than 100 dams, including many in the Sierra Nevada foothills, are in the state’s jurisdiction and probably will need to have these factors reassessed by local agencies, he said. More than 50 already have been identified.

Operators of various dams have been getting notices of the inspections in recent weeks.

In a letter received by the San Luis Obispo County Public Works Department on June 12, the chief of the Division of Safety of Dams ordered the county’s flood-control district to complete a “comprehensive condition assessment” of the Lopez Dam’s spillway.

“We completed a reconnaissance-level assessment of the spillway at Lopez Dam and have noted that structure may have potential geologic, structural, or performance issues that could jeopardize its ability to safely pass a flood event,” the letter stated.

There had been rumors that a letter like this was going to be sent out by the state, so it wasn’t a complete surprise when it arrived, said Mark Hutchinson, the county’s deputy director of public works.

The dam was retrofitted from 2000 to 2003 for a potential earthquake, so the county has a head start on any issues, he said.

San Luis Obispo County is expected to return a work plan for the assessment by Sept. 1.

State regulators are prioritizing dams for further local assessment by age, the size of their concrete structures and the amount of water they’re impounding, Meyersohn said.

Record rains this year in Northern California put tremendous strain on the state’s waterworks, with several levees failing. The Oroville crisis received national attention, but there were other problems as well. Heavy rains pushed water over the banks of Santa Clara County’s largest reservoir, sending massive amounts of water into the Coyote Creek, which runs through the heart of San Jose. Whole neighborhoods were flooded.

Though a full examination of the Oroville spillway failure hasn’t been completed, a consultants’ report prepared for the Department of Water Resources mirrored an independent assessment that identified several problems with the structure’s design and construction.

The failure, the consultants said in one of two reports the state released in April, “likely occurred as a result of high velocity flow … penetrating under the slab, causing a strong uplift force and causing the slab to lift, eventually causing all or part of the slab to break away. Subsequent erosion of foundation material caused progressive failure both upstream and downstream.”

The reports noted that numerous repairs had been made to cracks and spalls in the spillway. “Some of these holes were quite large and extended as deep as the reinforcing steel. The hole that triggered the failure was probably of the latter type,” the report stated.

Moreover, “the thickness of the original concrete chute slab appears to vary widely from the specified thickness,” the board reported, adding that the lack of water stops between the spillway slabs “was no doubt an important factor in the February failure.”

The state has signed a $275-million contract to begin repairs on the main spillway and the eroded emergency spillway as soon as runoff from spring snowmelt declines.

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Alas, poor Farmer John

Submitted: Jun 24, 2017
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

Alas, the judge denied poor Farmer John's request to have federal EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt testify in the federal court hearing that will decide if the Army Corps' $2.8-million fine for deep ripping will hold. Duarte's Pacific Legal Foundation lawyers barked like Chihuahuas at the passing caravan of Clean Water Act precedents.

--blj

 

6-16-17

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Is American medicine a major threat to physical, mental and economic public health?

Submitted: Jun 21, 2017
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 Care should be understood not only as an individual right, but as a social responsibility. Other Western nations have such a blend of private and public options. See Anu Partanen, “The Fake Freedom of American Health Care,” The New York Times, March 18, 2017

 

 

 

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The Duarte ripping festa keeps on going on

Submitted: Jun 19, 2017
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 Duarte said he has received support from the American and California farm bureaus, but surprisingly little from other farmers who stand to face the same kinds of claims by the government. He told me a year ago he expected to spend $1 million in legal fees to fight the feds. The farm bureaus established Duarte Defense Funds and there is a GoFundMe account as well.

“But they have yet to raise $100,000 between them,” Duarte said. Every farmer in America, he said, could be “shaken down by government agencies.”  -- "Poor Farmer John," Badlands Journal, June 10, 2017

Maybe if Duarte hadn't sold an estimated 2 million diseased pistachio trees in past years farmers would be more willing to support him in his effort to make a federal political case out of his problems with the Army Corps of Engineers. 

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Thinking about crime in Merced

Submitted: Jun 18, 2017
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 

Below is a series of articles about crime in Merced and Stanislaus counties in recent months. It is not an exhaustive list, not a police log, nor is it long enough to represent the variety of crime reported daily in this region. However, we do learn from the articles that Merced, Modesto, and two other Valley county seats rank among the top 10 cities in the nation for car theft. We learn that the recent "Operation Scrapbook," a multi-agency task force using advanced communications surveillance nabbed some top gang members accused of heavy charges including murder, meth dealing, and gun dealing.

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Weekend pickings on imperialism, impeachment, and health care

Submitted: Jun 14, 2017
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

These are a few articles that taught us last week. The conversation on American imperialism between Tom Engelhardt and William Astore produces more insight into American imperial failure every month. Patrick Cockburn's examines. Britain's foolish path in the slipstream of US imperialism heedless of consequences like Manchester. Noah Feldman and Alexander Bolton offer shrewd observations about the instability in Washington DC. -- blj

 

6-6-17

TomDispatch.com

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Neurotic aqua-utilitarian quantification

Submitted: Jun 13, 2017
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

If there is one thing that slip-slides away from easy quantification, it's water. None of its larger units of measurement, like the acre-foot, let alone a million gallons,  are easily imagined by the ordinary human being. Nor does it do much good to say that a family of four uses about an acre-foot of water a year, at least to people who remember when in the not too distant past the authorities said it took two acre-feet to achieve the same goal for the little family. And how big is a raindrop anyway?

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Poor Farmer John

Submitted: Jun 10, 2017
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 Farmers are exempt from needing permits to plow their lands under the Clean Water Act. But the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, implemented by Obama in 2015, prohibits plowing below the clay beneath the topsoil that keeps vernal pools, which count as wetlands, from draining. Duarte’s land does, indeed, include some vernal pools. He said the field was plowed only from 4 to 7 inches in depth, and maybe a foot deep in one place. And farmers can till land with vernal pools as long as they don’t destroy the pool’s existence, he said.

An Army Corps inspector saw the plowing, told Duarte to stop and followed up with a cease-and-desist order. The inspector said Duarte’s hired hand was “deep ripping,” going three feet deep in some places ...

 

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Comey's statement, June 7, 2017

Submitted: Jun 07, 2017
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 If we do nothing else during this tumultuous period of national history, we should all carefully read this statement by former FBI Director James Comey because grandchildren yet unborn will be asking us what it was like to be alive when Comey's statement was written. -- blj

 

 

 

6-7-17

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Seyed "The Mendacious" Sadredin goes national

Submitted: Jun 06, 2017
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 “[Sadredin] is a state officer,” said Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA’s regional administrator in California until last year. “He swears an oath to uphold the Clean Air Act, and yet he is actively working to undermine this important environmental law.”

 

 

4-22-17

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