Floods and Drought Emergencies Raising Doubts about Water Officials' Motives and Credibility

 

 
IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 13 February 2017  
Contact person, Patrick Porgans, (916) 833-8734 or 543-0780 for additional information 
 
Californians are under the weather; inundated by a plethora of mixed messages.
Back in January 2014, Governor Jerry Brown’s issued a Drought State of Emergency Proclamation, which, prompted State Water Board members to issue mandatory water cutbacks in the urban sector, while exempting agriculture.  
Recognizing persistent yet less severe drought conditions throughout California, on February 8, 2017, the State Water Board adopted an emergency water conservation regulation to amend and extend the drought emergency regulation. The details regarding the renewal of the drought emergency will be 
discussed in Part Two of this series of articles. 
On February 9th Gov. Brown to appeal to the Trump Administration, specifically, requesting that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declare a major disaster after the state was hammered by storms, floods and mudslides.  
On February 9th Gov. Brown to appeal to the Trump Administration, specifically, requesting that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declare a major disaster after the state was hammered by storms, floods and mudslides.  
Meanwhile, almost every major reservoir in the state is storing and releasing flood waters, major highways have been shut down, levees have been breached, mandatory evacuations issued due to largescale flooding.  
Flooding has been exacerbated due to a collapse of a portion of the gated flood control spillway, at the State Water Project’s Oroville Dam and Reservoir, second largest reservoir in the State.  
While the media frenzy has focused on the spillway crises and a yet-to-be determined fix; reporters apparently did not ask DWR officials where is the Emergency Action Plan, required by federal law in the event the flood-control facilities fail (gated flood control spillway and the auxiliary emergency spillway).  
According to State Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) officials, responsible for the maintenance and operation of the dam and reservoir, when they began to ramp up floodwater releases into the gated flood control spillway outlet, a maintenance person discovered a failure in the spillway’s concrete lining. The damage caused DWR officials to cut back floodwater releases from 30,008 cubic feet per second (CFS) to 5,000 CFS. At that time, inflow into the reservoir was 129,300 cfs.  
Figure 1: Damaged Spillways Associate Press 
Cutting back on flood releases caused floodwaters to pour over the top of the Dam’s emergency spillway, washing trees, boulder and debris into the Feather River. Documents obtained from DWR indicate that it did not believe that it was necessary to clear and maintain the area below the emergency spillway. Apparently, it was bad judgment on DWR’s behalf. 
At that time, DWR officials make a decision to cut floodwater releases to assess the damage, while the reservoir became full spilling water over the uncontrolled emergency spillway.   
in accordance with federal flood control rules and regulations. However, a close examination of the manner in which the floodwater releases were being made prior to the spillway failure is now the subject of a Forensic Accounting by Porgans & Associates, which has an ongoing “reservoir watch program of all section 7 reservoirs”, since 1985. On 9 February, 2017, Oroville Reservoir was at 80 percent of capacity and at 120 percent of “normal”.  
Seven days into the collapse of the gated spillway and subsequent floodwater pouring over the dam’s emergency spillway DWR officials are still floundering around conjuring up a list of contingency plan to provide a temporary fix to an impending catastrophe. The spillway, located on the right abutment of the dam, has two separate elements: a controlled gated outlet and an emergency uncontrolled spillway designed to convey excess water over the spillway weir and down the undeveloped side canyon slope to the river.   
Since the advent of this conundrum DWR and police authorities had kept reassuring the public there was no threat to their safety. However, yesterday, officials issued a mandatory evacuation affecting more than 100,000 residents to get to higher ground as there was concern that the integrity of the spillway could be compromised.  
Prior to the failure of the spillway DWR was already storing floodwater in the “Designated Flood Storage Space.” Although federal flood control regulations provide for the use of this space, flood storage and releases are determined by other ruling factors; i.e., ground wetness index (soil saturation), antecedent precipitation, inflow and outflow requirements included in the Oroville Flood Control Diagram.  
On Monday, 6 February, Porgans/Associates notified the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) of our concerns that DWR was encroached, and based on that week’s weather forecast there would be more storms and rainfall at higher elevations, urging the USACE ensure compliance with the Flood Control Regulations. It is important to note, that in the event an operator of a section 7 reservoir violates the regulations, there is essentially no enforcement provision, other than the USACE’s can write the operator, noting the violation. 
Initially, DWR officials stated that there was no threat to downstream property or people. As of 12 February they are now saying the “auxiliary” spillway at Oroville Dam could fail at any time and are ordering emergency evacuations from Oroville to Gridley.  
In previous flood event, the record show that DWR failed to operate the Oroville Flood Control space in compliance with USACE’s operating criteria, which resulted in significant damage to property and loss of life downstream. The flooding problem was exacerbated by DWR holding back too much water in the reservoir’s “designated flood storage space” and by federal water officials restricting water releases on the Yuba River from New Bullards Bar Reservoir, a major tributary to the Feather River, as a safety measure to avoid exceeding the downstream levees carrying capacity. The flood control manual for these dams are required to stagger releases so as not to exceed the Feather River channel capacity, which occurred in 1997.   
DWR officials conceded in their own reports that it is tempting to store more water in the flood storage space, which would otherwise not be permitted by the regulations. P/A assisted in providing the victims of the 1997 flood resulting from the operation of those reservoirs, and the subsequent levee failure at the confluence of the Yuba and Feather River in successfully winning their lawsuit against DWR.  
“The operation of reservoirs for flood protection is not without problems, and occasionally the reservoirs are not operated according to the published rule curve requirements. The use of flood storage space for other purposes served by the reservoir, such as power generation or conservation storage, negates the benefits derived from flood protection. When heavy storm runoff fills the reservoir's flood storage space, it is tempting to release the water slowly through the power turbines rather than to quickly evacuate the space by additional controlled releases which may be called for by standard operating procedures. This practice could defeat the flood protection operation.” [DWR, Bulletin 199, p. 33.]  
Ironically, DWR is assigned with the legal responsibility to inspect an estimated 1,200 dams in California annually, which includes the Oroville Dam and Reservoir. Several attempts were made on the outset of the spillway failure to get the annual inspection reports it appeared DWR officials were stonewalling.   
Contact was made with DWR’s Division of Safety of Dams to obtain a copy of the annual Oroville Dam and Reservoir facilities inspection reports, and was told that in order to get the documents it would require a formal Public Information Act (PRA) request. The PRA provides the public the opportunity to view those documents during normal business hours. PA took the opportunity to go directly to the Division of Dams and Safety office to get the records. The Administrative Officers said that the annual inspections reports are not retain in that office! Our specific request for the documents was also convey to DWR’s Public Information Office, which was not provided until Friday 10 February at 5:00 p.m., four days later, when Porgans/Associates demanded and received the reports while at DWR’s headquarters in Sacramento, CA.   
In addition, contact was made with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to obtain a copy of the Oroville Dam and Reservoir Emergency Action Plan (EAP); the responsible parties were out of the office. The fact that DWR officials spent days gaping at the hole in the spillway, they did not appear to have an emergency action plan in place, which is a matter that needs to be aired, as it appears to be a legal requirement. 
Emergency conditions, such as a failed spillway gate, breach of an outlet structure, or other limited structure failures that are causing uncontrolled partial releases of the reservoir need to be evaluated to determine if the condition is limited to this structure or if an unchecked continuation of this condition could cause a breach of a larger section of the dam.  
 
Here are other drought related articles published by Patrick Porgans, Forensic Accountant and Regulatory Affairs and Compliance Specialist. Porgans has been engaged in water issues in California and the West and has completed more than 75-Facting Finding Reports on water and water-related issues. He spent 13 years, and completed a series of 10 Fact Finding Reports that proved the SWP is not paying for itself, as promised, which resulted in compelling DWR to repay $500 million that came from publicly owned oil resources and out of the States General Fund.  
About the author: Patrick Porgans is a regulatory specialist and Forensic Accountant engaged in water- and water-related issues in California and throughout the West for the past forty years. He has completed 79 Fact-Finding Reports on the subject matter as a means to assist flood victims, downstream property owners, and farmers in gathering public records to quantify and qualify government’s contribution to property damages and loss of life directly attributable to water officials’ failures to comply with the federal and state mandates and regulatory duties. 
 
 
 
 
PART 2: Floods and Drought Emergencies Raising Doubts about Water Officials Motives and Credibility 
 
 
IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 14 February 2017 Contact person, Patrick Porgans, (916) 833-8734 or 543-0780 for additional information 
Emergency Drought Regulations Extended in the midst of an appeal for flood emergency funding for the majority of the State’s counties 
In the midst of the floods, the State Water Resources Control Board held a public meeting last week and despite overwhelming opposition voted to extend the “Drought Emergency regulations.”  The SWB is under the gun, and although it was designed to have its own autonomy, the record shows that it has capitulated to political pressure exerted by this and former governors.  
The Governor’s position to extend the emergency drought proclamation, in light of the current flood emergencies, has captured the attention and opposition of the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA). According to ACWA, executive officer, Tim Quinn, extending the drought emergency regulations is sending the wrong message and will undermine the public’s confidence in water officials’ credibility. 
The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) is the largest statewide coalition of public water agencies in the country. Its 430 public agency members collectively are responsible for 90% of the water delivered to cities, farms and businesses in California. ACWA plays a major role in water policy and development, promoting $20 billion in General Obligation Bonds, give-away funds, since the year 2000, predominately disbursed to water districts and repaid by the taxpayers via the General Fund. 
It is no surprise that even the  so-called “mighty Quinn” appears to realize that “blowback” is not out of the forecast; especially when urban users were under a mandatory cutback of 25 percent, along with cutbacks of water releases to meet Delta water needs amounting to a total amount of water “saved” at 3.2 million acre-feet (acre-foot is enough water to cover an acre of land one-foot in water. That amount of water would fill Folsom Dam three times or Oroville Reservoir nearly to its 3.5 million acre-feet of storage; the estimated value of that water, on the “water market”, is worth $3.2 billion. P/A raised the question, as to the whereabouts of the saved water, to the State Water Board members, at a meeting where the Board approved an extension of the drought regulations. 
Although a formal request has been made to the SWRCB officials as to the whereabouts of that water; to date, they have failed to provide that crucial information. P/A’s preliminary findings indicate the water is being used to supplement shortages in the SWP and the federal Central Valley Project, for new housing development, and agricultural expansion! 
Here are other drought related articles published by Patrick Porgans, Forensic Accountant and Regulatory Affairs and Compliance Specialist. Porgans has been engaged in water issues in California and the West and has completed more than 75-Facting Finding Reports on water and water-related issues. He spent 13 years, and completed a series of 10 Fact Finding Reports that proved the SWP is not paying for itself, as promised, which resulted in compelling DWR to repay $500 million that came from publicly owned oil resources and out of the States General Fund.  
About the author: Patrick Porgans is a regulatory specialist and Forensic Accountant engaged in water- and water-related issues in California and throughout the West for the past forty years. He has completed 79 Fact-Finding Reports on the subject matter as a means to assist flood victims, downstream property owners, and farmers in gathering public records to quantify and qualify government’s contribution to property damages and loss of life directly attributable to water officials’ failures to comply with the federal and state mandates and regulatory duties