Senator Gaines Asks President Trump For Full Inspection Of Folsom Dam

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

SACRAMENTO – Senator Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado) today sent the following letter to President Trump requesting that – in light of the Oroville Dam crisis – he take action to conduct an immediate and thorough inspection of Folsom Dam; the existing Folsom Dam spillways; the soon-to-be-completed auxiliary spillway; and all levees potentially affected by a dam failure or unregulated flow from Folsom Lake.

Dear Mr. President:

The Oroville Dam spillway damage and subsequent emergency spillway damage and potential flood crisis have placed California’s water infrastructure at the forefront of national news. 

As serious as that situation was (and continues to be), my Senate District is home to Folsom Dam, which is a Bureau of Reclamation facility that provides flood control to the Sacramento Valley. This Valley region of the state is vastly more populated than the Oroville area and floodplain and a failure of the dam or its spillways would lead to grave consequences for hundreds of thousands, or possibly millions, of people.

Although we have been spared any Oroville-level crises, the dam and original spillway have been strained beyond designed capacity and, on at least one occasion, failed.  In 1986, in a year of heavy storms such as those we are experiencing now, Folsom released roughly 15,000 cubic feet per second above the safe capacity of the downstream levees. In 1995, a spillway gate failed and released an unregulated flow of roughly 40,000 per cubic second into the American River. Thankfully, this latter event occurred in the summer when lake levels are not at their storm-swollen highest.

Folsom is currently in the final stages of adding another spillway complex to the lake’s infrastructure to provide additional flood-control capacity. I am thankful that the project is nearing completion and I’m hopeful it will add safety to the region.

However, as we recently witnessed in Oroville, it is possible that projects will not perform as they are designed to perform and that what appears to be a well-designed or well-maintained project may be suffering from latent defects that put people in serious jeopardy.

Sacramento is one of the most at-risk flood areas in the country.  As such, and in light of recent events in Oroville and the untested new auxiliary spillway soon coming on line, I am requesting that you task the Bureau of Reclamation, Army Corps of Engineers, or any other relevant and proper federal entities to conduct an immediate and thorough inspection of: Folsom Dam; the existing Folsom Dam spillways; the soon-to-be-completed auxiliary spillway; and all levees potentially affected by a dam failure or unregulated flow from Folsom Lake. These levees are a critical last defense for many people. Although I understand that they are not all federal, I am hopeful that your review could include multi-jurisdictional cooperation that resulted in a comprehensive review of this valuable infrastructure.

Lastly, I ask that if this review uncovers any problem that presents a danger to the people or property of California, that you waive or expedite any federal requirement that could delay the necessary remedy. I agree with you that this nation needs to renew its commitment to infrastructure investment and it can’t be delayed by unnecessary red tape.

Thank you for your leadership and concern for California and all the people of this great nation.

Most respectfully,

TED GAINES
Senator, 1st District