Suggestions include rebuilding the main spillway in a way that reduces the chance of rock and soil erosion; analysis of the entire dam infrastructure and the completion of any necessary upgrades; and a plan for the inspection of all dams in California and the U.S. to ensure they meet the latest standards. Until the February incident, the state's Department of Water Resources (DWR) said the spillway was safe as originally built.
The DWR is underway with expedited construction on the spillway to ready it for the upcoming rainy season. Critics of the DWR have said the new spillway should be made of concrete to prevent erosion.
Dams across the U.S. are generally in need of an upgrade, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). There are more than 90,000 dams in the U.S. and they average 56 years in age. By 2025, seven in 10 of those dams will be older than 50 years, according to the ASCE. The Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimates the total cost of bringing the nation’s non-federal and federal dams up to par would be more than $64 billion. Meanwhile, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects upgrading its own dams alone would cost more than $25 billion.
This is a familiar story. The nation's infrastructure is in dire need of repair and modernization, but government at all levels continues to struggle with the ability to fund the necessary work. One of the boosts to President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign was his insistence that he had a plan for a $1 trillion program to undertake such work. However, the administration has yet to put forth much detail on how such an initiative would be carried out, although the White House has indicated it will release more information before the end of the year.
The only substantive sign of the administration's intention to embark on a public works spending program thus far is a $200 billion direct-spending line item in its 2018 budget request. Elsewhere in his budget request, Trump calls for the elimination of popular infrastructure grant programs like Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants.