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The Oroville Dam disaster is yet another example

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John Beagle View Drop Down
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    Posted: Feb 15 2017 at 4:10pm
The Oroville Dam disaster is yet another example of California's decline
by Victor Davis Hanson



A year ago, politicians and experts were predicting a near-permanent statewide drought, a “new normal” desert climate. The most vivid example of how wrong they were is that California’s majestic Oroville Dam is currently in danger of spillway failure in a season of record snow and rainfall. That could spell catastrophe for thousands who live below it and for the state of California at large that depends on its stored water.

The poor condition of the dam is almost too good a metaphor for the condition of the state as a whole; its possible failure is a reflection of California’s civic decline.

Oroville Dam, along with Shasta Dam, is the crown jewel of California’s state and federal system of water transfers. Finished nearly 50 years ago, the earthen Oroville Dam is the tallest dam in the United States. The resulting Lake Oroville stores 3.5 million acre feet of snow and rain runoff, and is central to transferring water, eventually via the California Aqueduct, from the wet north to the dry southern half of the state. 

The dam was part of the larger work of a brilliant earlier generation of California planners and lawmakers. Given that two-thirds of the state wished to live where one third of the rain and snow fell, they foresaw a vast system of water storage and transference that would remake the face of a growing California by putting people, industry and farms where water was not.

The 19th and 20th century dams have saved thousands of lives and billions of dollars of property from perennial spring flooding. The dam at Oroville helps to control the flows of the Feather, Yuba, and, ultimately, the Sacramento rivers, allowing millions of Californians in these former flood basins to live without fear of deluges. Many Californians have come of age taking dams like Oroville for granted, assuming that flooding was something of ancient family lore — and that the manmade storage reservoirs surrounding their growing cities were “natural” lakes.

The water projects created cheap and clean hydroelectric power. (At one point, California enjoyed one of the least expensive electric delivery systems in the United States.) In addition, dams like Oroville ensured that empty desert acreage on California’s dry west side of the Central Valley could be irrigated. The result was the rise of the richest farming belt in the world. Complex transfers of water also helped fuel spectacular growth in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles Basin. Their present populations often do not fully appreciate that their dry hillsides and Mediterranean climates could never have supported such urban growth without the can-do vision of a prior generation of hydrological engineers.

Finally, besides, flood control, hydroelectric power and irrigation, California dams created over 1,300 reservoirs that presently provide the state with unmatched mountain recreational and sporting opportunities — often for the poor and middle classes who cannot afford to visit expensive coastal tourist retreats. 

Yet the California Water Project and federal Central Valley Project have been comatose for a half-century — despite the recent drought. Environmental lawsuits and redirection of critical state funding stalled final-phase construction, scheduled expansion and maintenance. Necessary improvements to Oroville Dam, like reinforced concrete spillways, were never finished. Nor were planned auxiliary dams on nearby rivers built to relieve the pressure on Oroville.

A new generation of Californians — without much memory of floods or what unirrigated California was like before its aqueducts — had the luxury to envision the state’s existing water projects in a radically new light: as environmental errors. To partially correct these mistakes some proposed diverting storage water for fish restoration and  re-creating of wild rivers to flow uninterrupted into San Francisco Bay.

Indeed, pressures mounted to tear down rather than build dams. The state — whose basket of income, sales and gas taxes is among the highest in the country — gradually shifted its priorities from the building and expansion of dams, reservoirs, aqueducts, bridges and highways to redistributionist social welfare programs, state employee pensions and an enormous penal archipelago.  

California currently hosts a third of the nation’s welfare recipients. Over one in five Californians lives below the poverty line. One in four Californians was not born in the United States. These social transformations pose enormous political challenges and demand that infrastructure and schools grow commensurately to meet soaring populations. 

Instead, California is eating its seed corn.

State lawmakers spend their time obsessing over minutia: a prohibition against free grocery bags and rules against disturbing bobcats. When they do turn their attention to development, they tend to pick projects that serve urban rather than rural populations — for example, that boondoggle of a bullet train whose costs keep climbing even as the project falls years behind schedule.

The crisis at Oroville is a third act in the state’s history: One majestic generation built great dams, a second enjoyed them while they aged, and a third fiddles as they now erode.

Victor Davis Hanson is a fifth-generation rural Californian and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
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basser View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote basser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb 15 2017 at 8:55pm
The state of California is #6 in the world's economy. And although the article states that one in four people there were not born in the United States, we cannot assume that they are all illegals. But, I digress. I am going to focus on infrastructure concerns. Our whole country has pleaded with the federal government to fix roads, bridges, highways and dams for decades. The Brent Spence bridge replacement in Cincinnati, Ohio (crosses the Ohio river) is the #1 emergency infrastructure project in the whole country! This bridge originally cost $10 million in 1963, and current replacement estimates are $2.2 billion. The bridge was originally designed to handle less than HALF of the current traffic traversing it: still no replacement. Think about the total collapse of this bridge the next time you cross it. Tell me - don't your cheeks just tighten? A reasonable person would think that the two adjoining parties for the two states (Mitch McConnell-KY) and the past Speaker of the House (John Boner-OH) could have made this happen in the last twenty years. But...no. Instead, we are willing to spend an estimated $21 billion on this Mexican wall; money we don't have.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote MElass Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb 15 2017 at 10:03pm
The problem is that no "designated"tax goes to it's intended use. State gasoline tax is siphoned off (pun intended)to pay for other state "needs" - unfunded pensions,etc. Same is true of Federal gas tax.
Everyone knows (or SHOULD) that FICA taxes are NOT put in "a strongbox" --or invested-- to pay your Social Security benefits. The government routinely funnels that money into "General Funds" If only we could count on the Government/politicians to do what they say they will do. HaHa---THAT IS too ooo funny!!
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John Beagle View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote John Beagle Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb 16 2017 at 10:13am
Originally posted by MElass MElass wrote:

The problem is that no "designated"tax goes to it's intended use. State gasoline tax is siphoned off (pun intended)to pay for other state "needs" - unfunded pensions,etc. Same is true of Federal gas tax.
Everyone knows (or SHOULD) that FICA taxes are NOT put in "a strongbox" --or invested-- to pay your Social Security benefits. The government routinely funnels that money into "General Funds" If only we could count on the Government/politicians to do what they say they will do. HaHa---THAT IS too ooo funny!!

Well said. I am especially concerned about this now that I am nearing the retirement age. Although I won't depend on SS for my reitrement, I did pay in to ss since 1974 without missing a year. Had I invested that money myself, I would have enough to retire on. Instead I get $2700/month at 70 yrs old. Not even close to my actual ss deduction (assuming I live to 85).
The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.
-Joseph Campbell
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote John Beagle Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb 16 2017 at 10:15am
But really this is about our infrastructure. basser complains about the federal government not investing in infrastructure. So I have to believe he is complaining about Obama and not Trump.

Either way we need to fix this now.
The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote basser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb 16 2017 at 8:57pm
John Beagle, if America's infrastructure began failing in the last eight years, I might be inclined to blame Obama...the reality is that this problem has worsened for decades. Congress pays the bills and makes the laws. Congress is now and has always been the problem.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote John Beagle Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb 17 2017 at 9:37am
Originally posted by basser basser wrote:

John Beagle, if America's infrastructure began failing in the last eight years, I might be inclined to blame Obama...the reality is that this problem has worsened for decades. Congress pays the bills and makes the laws. Congress is now and has always been the problem.

Good point however President Obama promised shovel ready jobs for infrastructure projects. "Shovel ready was not as shovel ready as we expected." 


So what stopped all progress for 8 years? If we had started fixing our roads, railroads, airports 8 years ago, how far along would we be today? I also blame Bush, Clinton and Bush Sr. But blaming people doesn't get things done, it only makes you feel better.

This is because politicians can't get things done that need to be done. However business people do get things done for their shareholders and owners. Here is a good example of politician vs businessman:

“Once upon a time there was an ice skating rink in Central Park that could no longer make ice. No one could figure out how to fix the skating rink. Years went by and millions of dollars were spent and still no ice. One day a white knight wearing a bright red tie showed up and said: ' Let there be ice!’ Four months later there was ice. When asked by the press why the people had been unable to fix the rink themselves the knight said 'they’re very nice people and I like them very much but they're all idiots!' And everyone lived happily ever after.” Source
The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.
-Joseph Campbell
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basser View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote basser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb 24 2017 at 11:11pm
John Beagle, conceptually you are correct. A good business person should be able to lead this country. However, I do not believe Don is up to task.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fiveisalimit Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Sep 02 2017 at 5:08pm
“Once upon a time there was an ice skating rink in Central Park that could no longer make ice. No one could figure out how to fix the skating rink. Years went by and millions of dollars were spent and still no ice. One day a white knight wearing a bright red tie showed up and said: ' Let there be ice!’ Four months later there was ice. When asked by the press why the people had been unable to fix the rink themselves the knight said 'they’re very nice people and I like them very much but they're all idiots!' And everyone lived happily ever after.” 


            Well, it's been a little over seven months and there sit the idioits.   Their red caps 
                  on their heads, their er......skates in their hands, waiting still for the promised ice.                       
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote zapp2525 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Sep 04 2017 at 4:23pm
Would like to see if he was given a chance.....................only if his wife would wear the correct shoes to board a plane
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