Yet, our state has neglected the dams that are critical for hydroelectric power.
The last time we checked in with the head of the California State Senate, Kevin de León, he was explaining that half his family would be subject to President Trump’s policy on the actual enforcement of immigration rules.
He is now proposing outlandish, energy-based legislation. Despite the limitations set by both technology and reality, he has submitted a bill that demands California be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2045.
The measure, SB 584, was introduced without fanfare before last week’s deadline for new proposals in the Capitol.
If approved, 100% of the state’s electricity would need to come from clean sources such as solar and wind by 2045. De León first suggested the idea in a conversation with The [Los Angeles} Times last month.
The measure would also accelerate the state’s goal of reaching 50% renewable energy. Legislation approved two years ago set a deadline of 2030 , but the new proposal would move that up to 2025.
This submission of this bill is completely laughable when one considers that hydroelectric power is one of the most effective of the renewable energy options. However, the Oroville Dam emergency underscores California’s politicians cannot be trusted with the maintenance of this type of critical energy infrastructure.
In the wake of evacuation, the root causes of the damage to the Oroville Dam’s main spillway that triggered the series of emergency actions are being determined. These issues must be addressed before next year’s rains.
The question facing the team of independent experts appointed by FERC in the immediate aftermath of the near-disaster is why, after all these years, did the Oroville Dam’s main spillway fail? The destruction of the unpaved emergency spillway was less of a surprise. The only question there was why no proper geological tests of the hillside’s bedrock had been done over the years, especially after concerns were raised in 2005. Core samples would have quickly revealed the dubious porosity of the rock. As far as the failure of the main spillway was concerned, cavitation was clearly the culprit. But what set of circumstances triggered it?
…Apart from carrying out a forensic analysis of both the main and the emergency spillways, the independent investigators will have to make recommendations in the light of their findings. That could well involve replacing the damaged main spillway completely and paving the hillside course of the emergency one. The cost of doing so could easily exceed $200m. Whatever the remedial action, the work will need to be completed before the next rainy season begins in just eight months’ time.
There has also been a review of the status of the remaining dams in the state. It paints a troubling picture of neglect.
…[T]he latest look at dam safety shows that 54 percent of the 1,250 dams regulated by the state are classified as “high-hazard” potential. That means if they failed or were operated wrongly, it would probably lead to loss of life.
That “high hazard” percentage is far higher than nearby states, and higher than the national average of 15 percent, according to data kept by the Association of State Dam Safety Officials.
In addition, 23 percent of California’s dams are in the “significant hazard” category, which means failure would cause an economic loss. And more than half of the dams were built before 1960, which increases the need for regular inspections. Many towns and cities were built or expanded downstream since.
Overall, the state is responsible for 79 percent of the 1,585 dams in California. The state’s dam safety program, with about 60 employees and an annual budget of $13.2 million, is praised nationally. But a report Sunday in the San Francisco Chronicle is the latest to raise some questions. It found that as of October 2015, a dozen high or significant hazard dams had gone more than two years without inspections.
I would suggest that our state’s politicians focus on taking care of the energy sources we currently have, instead of legislating based on political connections, poor science, and pipe dreams.