Dams require additional maintenance funding

Nearly 200,000 people were evacuated from northern California counties recently due to a possible spillway from the Oroville Dam. The weather changes in the state of California have contributed to this mandatory evacuation ordered by the government. Usually a drier state, California is experiencing the most rain in its history. While global warming is a pivotal factor in this emergency, there are other factors such as the construction and maintenance of dams.

Most dams are not designed to withstand strong weather patterns for a long time. Proper maintenance of the 90,000 dams  across the United States and regular check-ups are necessary in order to prevent emergencies. The changes in land use are also resulting in more run-off rivers, which can cause flooding in dams.

Global warming is bringing many changes to weather all around the country and engineers need to design better systems that could endure any weather changes that may arise. The government’s responsibility is to make sure that these dams are functioning properly. Otherwise, the spillway of a dam can lead to tragedy as it did less than a century ago in 1928, when the St. Francis Dam collapsed and killed over 400 people.

Poor maintenance and the lack of attention given to dams across the nation is also reflected in Flint, Michigan. In 2014, the public source of water was switched to the Flint River, but mistakes in treating the damaged pipes of the river resulted in lead leakage. Ever since then, the city’s residents have been unable to drink any clean water from pipes. The state has spent more than $200 million distributing bottles of water and filters, but many citizens do not trust the filters and refuse to use them.

President Donald Trump said that he will propose an infrastructure program to alleviate the situation. California has already proposed $100 billion worth of projects, including water systems, but the money will only go toward new building projects. The lack of resources, mostly financial, are often the cause of poor maintenance, as well as the lack of responsibility from the companies and governments that own the dams.

However, it is more expensive to fix the dam’s damages over time than to invest in maintenance work. California has 1,585 dams. Seventeen are listed as being in poor condition. One of California’s oldest dams, located at Lake Isabella, is estimated to require about $500 million and at least five years’ worth of rehabilitation and upgrades.

In Flint, 600 pipes have been replaced in one year.  If the rate at which the lines are repaired does not increase, it will take 50 years to fix more than 30,000 suspect pipe lines.

The order to evacuate 200,000 people may be seen like a responsible decision from Gov. Jerry Brown, but there is a lot of that he could have done to prevent this emergency from happening in the first place. It is the responsibility of the local government to ensure dams and infrastructure are properly working. If a fault is found, local officials need to represent their state and ask for aid from the federal government.