Friday, March 29, 2019

FEMA denies half the money California requested to repair partially failed dam; may be a signal to other states

Thousands of dams in the U.S. are deemed at risk of catastrophic failure (Federal Emergency Management Agency map)
After the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied about half the money California requested to repair a dam, "state and local governments can no longer assume the federal government will cover the costs of disasters it deems caused by deferred maintenance," Dave Nyczepir reports for Route Fifty.

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Heavy rains damaged the spillway on the Oroville Dam, triggering a flood that forced more than 180,000 residents to evacuate in February 2017. The state requested $639 million for repairs, but last week FEMA notified the state Department of Water Resources that it would only provide $333 million. FEMA said the state should have addressed preexisting structural problems to the dam, Nyczepir reports. A 2018 report found that the dam had problems not just with maintenance, but with design and construction.

"The state agency plans to appeal the decision to FEMA for itself and 29 local water contractors, wholesalers that supply treated water," Nyczepir reports. "But FEMA has made clear state and local governments should expedite repair or replacement of aging infrastructure before it fails."

FEMA's decision could be a warning to other states, all of which have dams considered at high risk of catastrophic failure. 

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