Congressman John Garamendi

Representing the 3rd District of California
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Congressmembers Garamendi and LaMalfa Seeks Clarity from FEMA on Authority to Fund Repairs to the Oroville Dam

February 6, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressmembers John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, Davis, Yuba City, CA), and Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale, CA) sent a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) seeking clarification on the agency’s authority to provide public funding for repairs of the Oroville Dam and its spillways. The State of California has requested FEMA to reimburse 75% of the estimated $870 million price tag, but in previous correspondence with Congress, FEMA has expressed ambiguity over whether it has the authority to fund these type of repairs. In the context of other disasters, FEMA has stated that it does not have the legal authority to fund projects where FEMA determines there was a “lack of maintenance,” and can only provide reimbursements for work to bring facilities back to their “pre-disaster design.”

“FEMA’s guidelines for reimbursement raise more questions than answers given the complexity of the incident at the Oroville Dam.” said Garamendi. “I want to know how FEMA defines ‘lack of maintenance’, especially in the context of the Independent Forensic Team’s report on the dam. Further, the Independent Forensic Team found that the original design of the dam was one of the causes of the disaster in the first place. It makes no sense for FEMA to reimburse the State of California for work to bring the Oroville Dam back to the same design that caused the disaster, rather than restore it to a state that will avoid future disasters.”

LaMalfa said: “FEMA’s reimbursement guidelines are cause for concern. The Independent Forensic Team determined that Oroville Dam spillway’s original design and inadequate maintenance contributed to the spillway failure nearly a year ago. Knowing that, what good would it do for FEMA to reimburse the state only to return the spillways to the same, condition that played a role in causing the disaster in the first place? We must proceed in a manner that ensures the safety of those impacted by the spillway incident and actually improves the spillway. These guidelines leave a lot of questions unanswered, and Congressman Garamendi and I are asking for some clarity.”

The letter can be found here.