ASFPM Policy Advisor Larry
Larson testified March 1 on flood control infrastructure before the Senate
Environment and Public Works Committee. The hearing was convened after the near
auxiliary spillway failure at Oroville Dam in California.
A good majority of Larson’s testimony focused on the fact
that the public is not aware of “residual risk” when living or working near
dams until law enforcement bangs on their doors at 2 a.m. telling them to
evacuate (as happened recently to 188,000 people who live near Oroville Dam). He
also testified about aging flood control infrastructure and lack of maintenance
funding; the often ignored nonstructural approaches available for flood
control; and that mapping of flood risk areas is “woefully incomplete” and will
require a major commitment of resources to update.
Larson said after the hearing he was encouraged by the fact
that there seems to be broad concern and recognition that our infrastructure is
in “pretty bad shape” and that investment in rehabilitation or removal is
needed. Some other takeaways from the hearing include an overall agreement that
accurate and updated flood maps are the key component of infrastructure and
need to be completed for the nation; national standards for levees and dam
design and construction is sorely needed; and there seems to be a
misunderstanding that the federal government can fix all these problems.
However, he did say that there seems to be a new understanding by the Senate
Committee members that states are the ones with authority to address dam and
levee safety. You can watch the hearing here, and read ASFPM’s written testimony here.