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LA Should worry about quakes at dam & not at levees

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POSTED February 12, 2018 2:17 a.m.

Fear of a levee collapse during a major Northern California earthquake from a yet-to-be-found fault in the Delta is hawked as the moral high ground for tunneling under the key ecosystem on the Pacific Flyway so not a drop of water Los Angeles has commandeered from the Sacramento River watershed is lost in a conjecture of catastrophic proportions.

The issue, we are told, are the levees are prone to failure.

Apparently so is the world’s highest earthen dam plugging the Feather River Canyon.

The big difference between the two are those responsible for the levees in the Delta want to maintain and fix them while the State of California in Oroville chose to believe they had created an invulnerable structure.

The levees that typically react like Jell-O when the ripple effect of major Bay Area quake reaches the valley do have integrity issues.

Unfortunately the State of California values red tape more than it does the lives of people.

Ask those who maintain levees how long it takes to get environmental clearance from government agencies so they can correct levee deficiencies when they are detected. Three years is considered lightning fast approval. Of course, when the eyes of the world are upon them when a flooding event occurs worrying about whether elderberry longhorn beetles might be disrupted where a reclamation district needs to plug a boil is a non-issue. After all, allowing the state to do business as usual when people are fleeing and homes are being flooded by not temporarily suspending its policy of insects and rodents first and people last might trigger a popular uprising to gut the bureaucracy and trash red tape.

The best way to assure Los Angeles doesn’t have to stop washing their Ferraris due to water rationing triggered by a quake that levels half of Northern California and collapses the levees forcing six months or so of water rationing is to mandate state approval of essential levee work be done in 30 days or less. 

If that had been the case on Jan. 2, 1997 Claire Royal, Marion Anderson, and Winston Nakagawa would not have died. The retired teacher, grandmother, and World War II veteran lived near a section of the Feather River levee in Arboga in Yuba County where five years prior the reclamation district detected issues that could lead to a collapse if not addressed.

But when the state saw there were elderberry bushes on that levee section the priority became protecting non-existence elderberry longhorn beetles that are on the endangered species list. They were non-existent because they were never found in any of the bushes in question. The five year approval process was finally wrapping up when the levee failed.

Not only was $2 million spent in a fruitless effort to find elderberry longhorn beetles in any of the 37 elderberry bushes in question, but 37,000 people had to flee for their lives as hundreds of homes were lost when 60 square miles were flooded.

The elderberry bushes were destroyed meaning potential habitat for an endangered species was loss. So who won? Try the state bureaucrats who got paychecks to delay levee repairs plus the consultants that pocked $2 million.

If Los Angeles wants a much more cost effective way to increase the odds delivery of their water that they suck out of a watershed they is not part of, perhaps the Metropolitan Water District should pressure legislators to counter the environmental perfectionist lobby and join forces with farmers as well as citizens in danger should levees fail to bring sanity back to Delta levee maintenance.

And if Los Angeles still insists on playing the earthquake card, then those in and around the Delta should play all the aces.

Surely Jerry Brown remembers the August 1975 Oroville earthquake that registered 6.4 on the Richter scale. While there were a lot of things going on in California during Brown’s first year in office, he should remember the Oroville quake. It’s the one that he joined forces with the anti-dam building folks to effectively kill off Auburn Dam. The quake near the base of Oroville Dam surprised everyone prompting the conclusion by many that the weight of the stored water triggered it. That led to a re-examination of Auburn Dam and the discovery there was an earthquake fault nearby that had previously gone undetected. Given there are more than 150 earthquakes in any given week in California that all can’t be felt by humans, the state likely has thousands of older undetected faults rated inactive.

If Los Angeles truly was worried about a quake not interrupting their water supply, they’d push for money to be spent first re-enforcing earth-filled Oroville Dam. Without Oroville Dam, LA’s biggest source of water from the State Water Project would render the tunnel project superfluous.

But who is kidding who?

The Twin Tunnels repackaged as the Myopic Tunnel isn’t about the vulnerability of LA’s water supply in a major quake. It’s about preventing even one drop of it being diverted for fish flows or ending up being diminished in the front end of a drought.

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