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Federal spending bill includes funding for dam repairs, snow measurement technology


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The proposed federal spending bill for 2021 includes funding for the Oroville Dam, Sites Reservoir Project and new snow measurement technology.

If passed by Congress, part of the massive omnibus spending bill would allocate $1 billion towards restoration projects and drought relief efforts.

In the Northstate, $7.5 million is expected to fund ongoing repair work at the Oroville Dam. This comes in the wake of the 2017 spillway crisis when nearly 200,000 people were evacuated as the emergency spillway threatened to give way during a record-breaking winter.

Emergency repair work has been ongoing ever since-- the additional funding would go towards strengthening the dam and fixing potential vulnerabilities identified in a recent report.

The bill is supported by California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who says that "Modernizing our water infrastructure is one of the most important investments we can make in California’s future.”

Additional funding will go towards pre-reconstruction work and designing the Sites Reservoir, which will be a major off-stream surface storage project in Colusa County.

The Omnibus bill also supports snowfall reading technologies. Chris Orrock, information officer with the California Department of Water Resources tells KRCR reporter Kassandra Gutierrez that one of the biggest new technologies is aerial snow measurement. It would come in the form of an airplane that flies over parts of the snowpack with new measuring technology.

This plane is able to measure snowpack over a wide variety of a whole watershed-- instead of the way it is currently done which is with snow pillars and measurements taken on the ground.

This new system will be able to measure a larger area at one time.

"It just helps us better understand our snowpack. Now our snowpack in ca is 30% of our water supply. As climate change continues to impact our snowpack changing where our snow is- making it at a higher level, decreasing the time frame that we have our snowpack- these emerging technologies like aerial snow observatory is really necessary for us to be able to know what kind of water we are going to get as that starts to melt,” says Orrock.

Orrock says this funding is not specific to California- but that the state is in a good place to receive part of it. The California Department of Water Rescources plans to apply for federal funding for these projects when Congress and the President come to an agreement on the federal budget.

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