Debate emerges over how to cover costs for Oroville spillway repair

Construction crews on scene at the Oroville Dam Spillway.

On May 8, phase two of reconstruction will begin on the Oroville Dam Spillway, but as more repairs take place, the bills are stacking up.

Fixing the Oroville Dam Spillway is something everyone is in favor of, but how to pay for it is a different matter.

Some politicians and residents from the Northstate have said they don't want the federal government to "bail out" California for the cost of spillway repairs.

Andrew Giles, a citizen of Oroville, says he doesn't trust the state or local officials will use the money responsibly.

"I think it should definitely come from state government," Giles said. "You know, we've had several times where we've been handed money on infrastructure. We haven't had any difference in roads, I mean, we have cracked roads."

If FEMA doesn't help pay for spillway repairs, the state and local governments will have to come up with over $850-million on their own. It's been assumed that FEMA would help cover up to 75 percent of the spillway's repair costs.

Some water districts in Southern California that rely on water from the Northstate would like to see FEMA reimburse California for the cost of the repairs.

Northstate Congressman John Garamendi says that's not FEMA's responsibility.

"The state of California [and the] Department of Water Resources [is] responsible for the dam and the spillway. It's their responsibility," said Garamendi.

Garamendi has no doubt the spillway will be repaired, and he says California has the money to pay for it.

Giles said he doesn't want tax dollars to come out of his pocket for repairs to the spillway, but believes it's better they be local tax dollars rather than federal.

It's yet to be determined whether the spillway failure last February was caused by a lack of maintenance.

Whether it was or not could determine if FEMA will reimburse California for the repairs.

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