Politics & Government

Assemblymember Gray tours flood center, talks emergency preparedness

What you need to know about the massive Oroville dam emergency in California

California is trying to avert disaster at the tallest dam in the United States. With the possibility of more rain on the way, engineers are working as quickly as possible while residents are told to stay vigilant.
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California is trying to avert disaster at the tallest dam in the United States. With the possibility of more rain on the way, engineers are working as quickly as possible while residents are told to stay vigilant.

Water officials and weather experts gave Assemblymember Adam Gray, D-Merced, a flood-themed tour on Friday to talk about flood preparedness and the effects of climate change, according to a news release.

The tour covered the Department of Water Resources’ Flood Operations Center in Sacramento and featured meteorologist and flood management officials, the release said.

The Sierra snowpack is at 162 percent of its average for this time of year and the statewide snow water equivalent has tripled since February, according to the Department of Water Resources. Snow water equivalent is a factor used by water managers to help estimate spring runoff, the release said.

“Fortunately, this has been a rebound year for California’s water supply,” Gray said in the release. “But the abundance of water also carries a certain amount of risk. Today was an opportunity to make sure our flood management officials at the state and federal level are working together and prepared to respond in case of an emergency.”

The state typically gets close to 200 million acre-feet of water a year from rain and snow, and the Sierra snowpack provides 30 percent of California’s water needs. An acre-foot is the amount of water it would take to cover an acre of land in a foot of water.

California has a history of highs and lows for its precipitation with cyclical droughts reported in the state. Then there is the Oroville Dam’s spillway that two years ago developed a massive crater in its nearly half-mile long surface — which triggered the evacuation of 188,000 people and a $1.1 billion repair job to the country’s tallest dam.

Friday’s briefing also included hydrologists and meteorologists who manage the California/Nevada River Forecast Center and National Weather Service’s Sacramento Regional Office, the release said.

“While the Sierras were inundated with a record number of atmospheric river events this year, we need to prepare for warmer temperatures in the short-term and severe droughts in the long-term,” Gray said.

Gray said he introduced Assembly Bill 638 to require the Department of Water Resources to determine statewide water storage capacity and identify how storage will be threatened by climate change.

“For too long the California Water Plan has provided more question than answers,” he said. “This bill requires DWR to provide specific strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change on our water supply.”

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