The Army Corps of Engineers, a Continuing Resolution Expiration, and a Congress That Hasn’t Yet Made Up Its Mind.

April 28

Today’s post features a collaboration between guest author Julie Minerva and Scott and Andrea.

After a grueling six-week legislative stretch, Members of Congress have returned home for a two-week district work period (weeks of April 10 and April 17).  Senators are scheduled to return to the Capitol on Monday, April 24th, while the House of Representatives will follow one day behind with a series of evening votes on Tuesday, April 25th.  This schedule gives the House just three full legislative days before the current continuing resolution (CR) expires at midnight on Friday, April 28th.  In preparation for this looming deadline Congress essentially has five options:

  1. Finalize the Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) appropriations bills as part of an omnibus appropriations package;
  2. Pass a year-long CR to fund the government at existing FY16 levels until the FY18 fiscal year starts on October 1;
  3. Consider a combination package that finalizes FY17 funding for easier to pass bills and provides a year-long CR for more problematic bills;
  4. Pass another short term stop gap CR to provide more time to finalize and build political support for a final FY17 budget vote sometime in May, or;
  5. Shut down the government.

For those local agencies dependent upon on an annual work plan for the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to provide the federal share of an authorized project or study, option 1 is the cleanest and quickest path for providing the Corps with the necessary direction to initiate the FY17 work plan.  Using past years as a guide, you can expect that the Corps will have between 45 and 60 days to produce and clear a work plan through the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works (ASA) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).  This timing would put the release of the FY17 work plan somewhere between mid-June to early July.  Furthermore, both the pending House and Senate FY17 Energy & Water Appropriations bills call for new start designations for feasibility studies and construction.  These markers are a good indication that new start designations will carry forward to the final bill and be assigned to specific projects during the work plan process.

You may recall that House appropriators were pushing hard last December to final the FY17 bills before the end of 2016, but in deference to the new administration, the Senate prevailed in convincing the House to pass another CR.  Based on recent conversations with appropriations staff, the FY17 bills are more or less ready to be finalized and staff is anxious to put FY17 behind them so that they can make way for FY18 efforts to begin in earnest.  It remains to be seen what political path House and Senate leadership decides on, but right now my crystal ball says that we’ll start with option 4 as a bridge to get to option 1 or option 3.  Regardless, pressure to resolve FY17 in some manner continues to build as the President is expected to unveil his full FY18 budget proposal in mid-May.  A scenario that leaves FY17 languishing beyond mid-May would make things unnecessarily complicated.  But then again, this is Washington.

Julie Minerva is a Washington, DC based infrastructure advocate who specializes in Civil Works and all things related to the US Army Corps of Engineers. You can find her at: jminerva@carpiclay.com

A potpourri of Northern California news, including the latest on Lake Oroville

Contractors remove sediment and debris below the Oroville Dam flood control spillway. Dale Kolke/DWR

Good day! Today we feature a series of little squibs of what has been happening in the past two weeks.  All of the information below is confirmed, and all of it is notated with additional context.  But we did want to share with you one item, which we cannot confirm, but which we are hearing about.  Rumor has it that DWR has already designed significant parts of the spillway repair for Lake Oroville, has had meetings with four hand-selected contractors, and is currently getting ready to award a contract for the first phase of the repair dealing with road construction.  These same rumors peg completion of the project to December 15, an aggressive schedule for any project let alone one this complicated.

The rumors indicate that the spillway will be repaired with roller compacted concrete.  The advantages of this technique include the speed with which concrete can be poured and will cure, and the fact that form construction is either very basic or not necessary at all.  While just a rumor, this technique certainly makes sense in light of the constraints we see.  Unfortunately, California remains very skimpy with its willingness to share information.

As to the details on the ground, here are our top nine items:

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The Trump Skinny Budget and Federal Flood Protection

Skinny Budget

Today’s post features a collaboration between guest author Julie Minerva and Scott and Andrea.

This morning the Trump Administration released its America First Budget (aka the Skinny Budget) for FY18. The text of the document contains much of the same rhetoric you heard in the President’s inaugural address as the budget proposes to focus on advancing the safety and security of the American people. Overall the budget proposes to increase spending for the Department of the Defense by $54B and it does this by eliminating or reducing most domestic discretionary budget items by an equivalent amount. For some agencies the America First Budget cuts straight into the bone. For the potential impact to flood protection programs, read on!

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Update on Oroville Dam, Concerns about Fish and a Related Snow Survey

Contractors remove sediment and debris below the Oroville Dam flood control spillway. Dale Kolke/DWR

Contractors remove sediment and debris below the Oroville Dam flood control spillway. Dale Kolke/DWR

Things have appeared relatively quiet at Oroville Dam for the past couple of weeks, but a lot has been happening.  DWR has been clearing debris from the diversion pool and has successfully started up releases through the Hyatt Powerplant, but the drawdown had some negative impacts downstream.  Here is our latest update.

As always, if you find this blog helpful or interesting, please feel free to share it with others who may be interested. And if you would like to be updated when we post a new entry, please add your email on the right or below where it says “stay connected.” Continue Reading

The Governor Writes a Letter, and Roundup on Flooding Issues Around the State

Finance Letter

Here’s our Saturday morning update on flood control issues in the Central Valley and beyond. Things have been quieter this week at Oroville Dam, but there’s plenty to report on from around the state.

As always, if you find this blog helpful or interesting, please feel free to share it with others who may be interested. And if you would like to be updated when we post a new entry, please add your email on the right or below where it says “stay connected.”

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A Mishmash of News as California Gets Even Wetter.

Clark Bypass cropped

The Sutter Bypass looking north; photo by Andrea Clark

It feels like Monday morning’s installment should start with a rousing round of “rain, rain, go away, come again another day, Californians want to play!”  With even more storms set to hit Northern and Southern California, the rain totals continue to rise and Mother Nature once again shows her awesome power.  Today’s installment is focused on short summaries of events from around the state.

As always, if you find this blog helpful or interesting, please feel free to share it with others who may be interested. And if you would like to be updated when we post a new entry, please add your email on the right or below where it says “stay connected.”

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DWR Expresses Confidence That Oroville Threat Has Diminished, and Downstream Levees Will be Reinforced. And Here Comes the Rain!!

Power Transmission Towers

Here is Saturday morning’s installment of our update on the Oroville Dam spillway incident and more news about the valley.  In summary, Oroville’s Powerhouse is still not able to produce power; the emergency or auxiliary spillway remains stable; workers continue to add rock and concrete to address the erosion that led to the evacuations; the primary or service spillway is also stable, and is now  evacuating 70,000 cfs from the reservoir; but new storms have started to roll in.

As always, if you find this blog helpful or interesting, please feel free to share it with others who may be interested. And if you would like to be updated when we post a new entry, please add your email on the right or below where it says “stay connected.”

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Mandatory Evacuation Ends Below Oroville Dam, But the Flood Control System in the Valley Remains Strained

Bags of crushed rock ready to be dropped into damaged areas of Spillway. Dale Kasler/The Sacramento Bee

Bags of crushed rock ready to be dropped into damaged areas of Oroville Dam emergency spillway. Dale Kasler/The Sacramento Bee

Here is Wednesday morning’s installment of our update on the Oroville Dam spillway incident and more news about the valley. For background, please see our earlier blog posts which set the stage and provide context.  In sum, the mandatory evacuation is over; the emergency or auxiliary spillway remains stable; workers continue to add rock and concrete to address the erosion that led to the evacuations; the primary or service spillway is also stable, and is still evacuating 100,000 cfs from the reservoir; but new storms are forecasted to roll in starting Wednesday evening.

Because there is less news today, we have tried to provide some information on the weather and flood system operations.  As always, if you find this blog helpful or interesting, please feel free to share it with others who may be interested. And if you would like to be updated when we post a new entry, please add your email on the right where it says “stay connected.”

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“Dynamic” Situation at Oroville Dam: Valentine’s Day Update (and in other news….)

Oroville Emergency SpillwayHere is Tuesday morning’s installment of our update on the Oroville Dam spillway incident.  For background, please see our earlier blog posts, starting last Thursday, February 9, and most recently our update of February 13 which sets the stage and provides context.  In sum, the evacuation continues; the emergency or auxiliary spillway is stable; workers are adding rock to address the erosion that caused the evacuation; the primary or service spillway is also stable, and is currently evacuating 100,000 cfs from the reservoir; but new storms are forecasted to roll in starting Wednesday, and many people are still worried about how the reservoir and its spillways will handle the water.

Once again we have tried to share the important facts and the context, without hype, sensationalism, or blame.  If you find this helpful, please feel free to share it with others who may be interested.  And if you would like to be updated when we post a new entry, please add your email on the right where it says “stay connected.”

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A Scary Night for Those Below Oroville Dam; And The Worst May Not be Over.

On Saturday we said, “What a difference a day makes!”  And that is true again!  As of Sunday night at 11:00 pm when we wrote this we had been through several very scary hours and over a hundred thousand people had been evacuated from their homes.  Indeed, the facts are so fluid and the information so incomplete that we debated not posting at all.  But we ultimately decided to post what we know, again in a simple format to hopefully make it easily understandable for those trying to follow along.  But remember, there is always a risk that by the time you read this, it may be out of date.

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