Friday, February 8, 2019

As it happens, one of the government’s first moves was to dam up the flow of information on safety issues.

...Governor Brown and state water bureaucrats blocked access to the dam’s design specifications, federal inspection reports, technical documents, and other crucial information. Much of that emerged in Independent Forensic Team Report: Oroville Dam Spillway Incident, a 584-page report that chalks up the disaster to “a complex interaction of relatively common physical, human, organizational, and industry factors, starting with the design of the project and continuing until the incident.”

On page 59 of this document, readers learn that the principal designer for both Oroville spillways “was hired directly from a university post-graduate program, with prior engineering employment experience limited to one or two summers.” And the designer had “no prior professional experience designing spillways” and “no instruction on spillway design” in college coursework. The forensic team “finds it striking that such an inexperienced engineer was given the responsibility of designing the spillways of what is still the tallest dam in the US.”

Whether or not they live near the dam, California taxpayers may find it striking that this massive, detailed report fails to name this non-engineer. A longtime DWR employee denied that there was any such person, which Californians might take as confirmation that there was....