As the water levels at the Oroville Dam continue to shrink, Californians under the initial evacuation order are streaming back their homes.

Now, officials are attempting to restore normal operations ahead of more rains.

Feeling confident they’ve created sufficient empty space in Lake Oroville for the time being, state Department of Water Resources officials said they reduced spillway outflows so they could address another looming challenge: restarting the dam’s hydroelectric plant, which can release additional water when operational. The plant was shut down last week after concrete and other debris from the spillway accumulated at the bottom of the dam, backing up water to the front door of the hydro facility.

DWR Acting Director Bill Croyle said the water level in the reservoir has receded enough since Sunday that it’s safe to reduce the spillway releases to allow crews to clear debris from the Feather River below the dam.

“The threat level – it is much, much, much lower than what it was on Sunday,” he told reporters at DWR’s regional office a few miles from the dam.

Dam personnel are attempting to repair the damage to the dam’s spillways ahead of the next set of storms.

Capt. Dan Olson, a spokesman from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said crews have been working around the clock to reinforce two damaged spillways at Oroville Dam before storms expected to begin as soon as Wednesday night. Officials are using drones to monitor the repairs and damage.

Here’s a snapshot of the resources involved in the repair effort:

  • More than 125 construction crews
  • 40 truckloads of aggregate rock
  • 1,200 tons of rock deposited in eroded/damaged areas per hour
  • Two helicopter drops of rocks, concrete and/or other materials every minute and a half
  • A California National Guard Black Hawk helicopter is assisting with drops

Legal Insurrection readers recall that I noted that Oroville Dam lays in a deep red part of California. Despite the fact that issues with the structure were noted 12 years ago, Obama’s Stimulus Package monies for infrastructure were never sent for the needed repairs and enhancements.

However, one California dam get see several million Stimulus dollars, though it was in much better condition.

Over $22 million in stimulus funds did go toward safety improvements to the Folsom Dam, which was described as in “good shape” at the time the grant was awarded in 2009.

“The dam is in good shape but is starting to show its age,” a Bureau of Reclamation spokesperson said of the Folsom Dam at the time.

The stimulus was intended to “shore up the nation’s aging infrastructure,” said Rep. Mike Thompson, a Democrat who served California’s 1st District before being redistricted to the 5th.

The fact that the dam was in a “blue” county may have been a contributing factor.

Folsom Dam is in Sacramento County, which went blue in 2012.

http://www.politico.com/2012-election/results/president/california/

And in 2016.

http://www.politico.com/2016-election/results/map/president/california/

The voting pattern may also explain Governor Brown’s funding priorities as well.

A list of $100 billion of “key” infrastructure projects that California Gov. Jerry Brown’s office targeted this month for investment statewide includes raising Folsom Dam to improve flood protection but doesn’t specifically mention Oroville Dam.

…Most of the projects on the three-page wish list involve transportation-related projects, such as highways, bridges rail or transit.

I will simply point out that there were many Democrats who were forced to evacuate from during the Oroville Dam emergency. I certainly hope our state officials reflect on the fact that by making choices that benefit California citizens of all parties, they also help fellow party members.

Mahatma Ghandi once noted that action expresses priorities. The infrastructure priorities in California seem to be established an a very weak political foundation, indeed.