On Sunday night, California state officials issued the emergency evacuation order in Northern California, for cities and counties beneath the Lake Oroville Dam, 150 miles north-east of San Francisco (and directly north of the state Capitol in Sacramento), as the auxiliary spillway at the nation's tallest dam appeared to be in imminent danger of collapse and an historic catastrophe.
As of Monday, the hillside beneath the spillway's lip is reportedly holding, for now, but the lake, which supplies drinking water to much of the state, is near capacity with a week of rains predicted to be on their way, and the main spillway already crippled by a nearly 300 foot wide gash. The disturbing scenario playing out at this hour is precisely what had been predicted by environmental groups 12 years ago, but their warnings were discounted by both state and local officials.
Eric Wesselman, the Executive Director of FriendsOfTheRiver.org — one of the groups who attempted to warn officials a dozen years ago, of precisely this scenario, joins us with the latest details on the potential collapse, human and environmental impacts, and some thoughts on why it was that his group's warnings were ignored back in 2005.
"We have a little reprieve here," Wesselman tells me about attempts to mitigate disaster during the current break in the weather. "That is a critical little window of opportunity because there's an expected (storm) system coming in, if not two or three, on the heels of the one we just had. They're using this time to do what they can to shore up the spillways and to continue releases so that they can lower the level of the reservoir to make room for expected inflow," he says, adding: "It's gonna be a nail-biter"
"If it's not drought, it's floods," he notes, concerning California's ongoing battle with climate change, while explaining his organization's efforts to avoid such disasters, like the one we're now seeing, before they become reality. "The goal of Friends of the River is not to have a 'gotcha' moment here — but it's to get to a place where stakeholder groups like ours are taken more seriously at the table when critical decisions are being made and considered, and that we're not just dismissed."
We also discuss some of the heroic action now being taken to not only save countless human lives and property beneath the dam, but those of endangered species. Wesselman also warns about what he fears may be the "mis-reaction" or "knee-jerk" response to this crisis from both the Trump Administration and Congress
Speaking of which, also on today's show: The federal courts may have put a hold, for now, on Trump's "Muslim travel ban" Executive Order, but his other orders on immigration proceed apace, with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency raids reportedly rounding up hundreds of allegedly undocumented aliens for deportation in about a dozen states over the past several days, even as Trump continues to lie about the effects of those raids. Again: Watch what he does, not what he says!
Oh, and happy World Radio Day! In 2016, more people still listened to the radio than watched TV or smartphones! Yes, our public airwaves still matter! I suspect about 188,000 Americans caught in traffic, for hours, trying to flee last night's potential dam disaster, may agree.
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