The Oroville Dam, where construction crews are toiling to prevent a failure of Johnstown proportions, is a visible symptom of a greater rot. "The points of failure in Oroville's infrastructure were identified many years ago, and the cost of making the needed repairs was quite small -- around $6 million. But for short-sighted reasons, the repairs were not funded; and now the bill to fix the resultant damage will likely be on the order of magnitude of over $200 million." That's assuming the current patching succeeds and no further evacuations, particularly in extremis, occur. And Oroville is one of the better dam sites?? "Oroville is one of the best-managed and maintained dams in the country. If it still suffered from too much deferred maintenance, imagine how vulnerable the country's thousands and thousands of smaller dams are. Trillions of dollars are needed to bring our national dams up to satisfactory status. How much else is needed for the country's roads, rail systems, waterworks, power grids, etc?"
Meanwhile, it's still a closely-run thing at Oroville, according to dam contractor Scott Cahill. "Well, when they allowed just a bit of water to run over the emergency spillway they soon found with the velocities of only a portion of the water that could be moving over that emergency spillway. They had such severe scour that they anticipated a failure of the structural elements within 45 minutes."
Nobody is saying Johnstown, but should the spillway scour back to the dam, that sounds like a failure of Johnstown proportions. Plus a lesson, if people will mind it. "The question being, can we trust our government to disseminate information to us in our best interest?"