Newsletter: The government failure at the heart of the Oroville Dam crisis

Reduced water releases at the Oroville Dam have made damage to its main spillway more visible.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning. It’s Monday, Feb. 20, and here’s what’s going on around California:


Failure factor

The near-catastrophic failure of the Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway grew out of fundamental problems with its original design — issues that were never corrected despite questions about its adequacy, documents and interviews suggest. “There is no way to rationalize running water down a hillslope with deep soils and a forest on it and weak bedrock,” an expert on geology and California water said. Los Angeles Times


Flood zone: For the tiny farming town of Maxwell, there was little warning before flooding inundated the hamlet. Los Angeles Times

Spotlight: The crisis at the Oroville Dam has brought national attention onto a long-running fight between state water officials and one Butte County official who has been an outspoken critic of how the dam is run. Oroville Mercury-Register

Warning signs: The damage to the concrete spillway was an accident waiting to happen, experts say. Los Angeles Times

Not over yet: This latest storm might just be too much for Northern California’s overtaxed flood control network. Los Angeles Times


Day of remembrance

The uneasy parallels between two presidents — Donald Trump and Franklin Roosevelt — and two executive orders singling out a class of people are resonating in the Japanese American community and beyond on the 75th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066, which authorized the internment of Japanese during World War II. Many internment survivors now feel an affinity with Muslims today. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Seventy-five years ago, The Times supported internment. Now the paper apologizes for its “shameful response.” Los Angeles Times



Voices of experience: Three former L.A. mayors gathered to share thoughts on running the city. Together, their terms spanned two decades marked by the Northridge earthquake, the San Fernando Valley’s threatened secession from L.A., and an economic crash that left city leaders struggling to stave off bankruptcy. But they didn’t agree on how to run the city. Los Angeles Times

Wake-up call: That sinkhole that swallowed up two cars during Friday’s storm represents the new symbol of L.A.’s infrastructure woes. Daily News

What timing: A fire this weekend at a Torrance refinery has heightened already deep community concerns over safety. Daily Breeze

Height fight: The battle over the Frank Gehry development on the Sunset Strip now seems far from over. Los Angeles Times


Pride goeth? There’s a plan to move the L.A. Pride gay parade onto Melrose Avenue, but some residents don’t like the idea. Curbed Los Angeles


Change course? Are Latino leaders in California all wrong in the way they are fighting Trump? Sacramento Bee

Friendly warning: President Trump’s best friend in California has a warning for state Democrats. New York Times


Hope floats: Times columnist Steve Lopez, who has been crusading about the California coast for more than a year, argues the new head of the Coastal Commission is a good thing for people who love our beaches. Los Angeles Times

$$$$: Campaign spending in California broke records in 2016. Don’t expect the money train to slow down in 2018. Los Angeles Times

Bark: When it comes to California, President Trump talks tough. But his actions might have less bite. San Francisco Chronicle

Losing ground: Why the pay gap between men and women is actually getting worse in California despite new laws and more attention. Orange County Register



Unpredictable: A wild week in the Robert Durst murder case offers the clearest sign yet of the evidence prosecutors plan to present. But can they get it in? Los Angeles Times

Familial strife: How a deportation has split up one family. San Diego Union-Tribune

Cold case: Fifteen years after a man kidnapped a 14-year-old boy at gunpoint, blindfolded him and then sexually assaulted him, Los Angeles police arrested a suspect after a DNA match cracked the cold case open. Los Angeles Times



Connected: Trump and other issues have brought protests and unrest on the Mexican side of the border. That has troubling implications for San Diego. San Diego Union-Tribune

Expert opinion: Diagnosing President Trump. Los Angeles Times

Studio shakeup: Brad Grey’s expected exit from Paramount after a long and decidedly mixed run poses a host of questions for the troubled studio. Los Angeles Times


Academy debate: How political will this year’s Oscars be? And will it be politically correct to party hard? The Guardian

Dark side: Viewing the midcentury masterpieces of Palm Springs — in moonlight. The Guardian


Bay Area and Sacramento: Extreme rain storms and high risk of flooding near rivers and streams. Los Angeles: Chance of scattered showers Monday, clearing Tuesday. San Diego: Partly cloudy Monday and Tuesday.



This week’s birthdays for notable Californians include: Nobel laureate and UC Berkeley professor George Smoot (Feb. 20, 1945), media mogul David Geffen (Feb. 21, 1943) and actress Rashida Jones (Feb. 25, 1976).

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.