The federal agency responsible for regulating the nation’s power grid ordered California to open an investigation into a massive dam failure that forced thousands of people to relocate down stream.
Cheryl LaFleur, chairwoman for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), told reporters Tuesday night the commission is monitoring the Oroville Dam. It’s currently hitting flood stage thanks to a deluge of rain. Nearly 200,000 people have been evacuated from their homes due to the flood threats.
Officials said Monday the goal is to reduce Lake Oroville’s water level by 50 feet in preparation for the next round of storms, slated to hit California by Thursday or Friday.
“Our top priority is the safety of residents and property downstream from the dam, and to that end we are working with the California Dept. of Water Resources (DWR), the licensee and operator of the project” to help direct emergency activities, LaFleur said.
FERC oversees hydro-power dams like the one in California. Oroville, at 770 feet, is the tallest dam in the country. It rejected requests from activists for the state to make a $100 million improvements to the dam — the commission believed the Oroville Dam was not at risk of failing.
The improvements would have included shoring up the dam with concrete barriers.
Conservatives are criticizing California Gov. Jerry Brown for prioritizing high-speed rail and services over more important infrastructure issues like fixing the dam. The cost of fixing the spillway is $200 million.