Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) issued the following statement after sending a letter to President Trump urging that he declare a Presidential Disaster Declaration of a Major Emergency after the Oroville Dam spillway suffered major damage, leading to an increased threat to public safety and causing widespread evacuations in the surrounding areas.LaMalfa said in a news conference today that he hadn't yet heard from Trump himself but he's been in contact with White House staff.
LaMalfa said: “The damage to the emergency spillway and main spillway to the Oroville Dam is a major safety concern for the surrounding communities and a crisis that will persist for the foreseeable future. Residents have been forced to leave their homes and seek shelter on higher ground as the risk for a major flood continues. The mandatory evacuation of nearly 200,000 residents is the very definition of a disaster and with more rain expected as early as Wednesday, it is critical that we act swiftly to ensure federal aid is available to support and shelter evacuees as this crisis continues to develop. The wellbeing of our residents is the number one priority and we must do everything within our power to ensure their safety. I urge the President and the Governor to take this action as rapidly as possible.”
The text for the letter is as follows:
The Honorable Donald J. Trump
President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
We are writing to urge that you act rapidly to declare a Presidential Disaster Declaration of a Major Emergency to address the threat to public safety resulting from crippling damage to Oroville Dam, located in Butte County, California. Under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, a declaration would immediately direct federal resources to the area to help address a crisis of growing proportions and assist residents of three counties currently under mandatory evacuation orders.
Oroville Dam, the tallest dam in the United States and the primary component of the State Water Project, experienced significant damage to its primary spillway late last week and operation of the spillway was rapidly curtailed. As a result of decreased releases from the primary spillway, a rapid, storm-caused increase in water levels triggered the first-ever use of an adjacent emergency spillway. During operation of the emergency spillway, it also experienced erosion-related damage to a degree which could result in failure and potentially catastrophic flooding if operations were continued. State and local officials determined that failure of the emergency spillway was so imminent that they triggered a mandatory evacuation of nearly 200,000 downstream residents late last night.
While the emergency spillway did not fail last evening, according to the National Weather Service (NWS), additional storms will reach Northern California as early as Wednesday and contribute significant precipitation over the following several days. The danger of failure is likely to persist for months as California’s winter and spring runoff seasons progress, and it is extremely unclear when state agencies will be able to mitigate the danger to a degree that would allow residents to return to their homes.
A Presidential Disaster Declaration would immediately make federal aid available to support evacuation and shelter of the residents of Butte, Sutter, and Yuba Counties, as well as increase the capacity of federal, state, and local agencies to address the crisis as it develops.
We ask that you act rapidly in order to ensure that appropriate federal agencies are able to rapidly provide assistance during this challenging situation. Thank you for your timely response to this request.