John Garamendi

Will the crisis at Oroville Dam become a catalyst for change?

Will the crisis at Oroville Dam become a catalyst for change?

Jeffrey Mount, a leading expert on California water policy, remembers the last time a crisis at the Oroville Dam seemed likely to prompt reform. It was 1997 and the lake risked overflowing, while levees further downstream failed and several people died.

“If this doesn’t galvanize action, I don’t know what will,” Mount said he thought at the time. But spring came, the waters receded and no changes came to pass.

Now another threat looms in Oroville, where deteriorating spillways forced widespread evacuations, and more heavy rain is around the corner. State officials have remained focused on quick fixes at the dam needed to prevent catastrophic...

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