California Grower Files Multi-Million Dollar Claim Against Department of Water Resources Post Oroville Dam Flood

Thu. August 3rd, 2017 - by Laura Hillen

BUTTE COUNTY, CA - Could the Department of Water Resources be held responsible for damages sustained when Oroville Dam’s spillway flooded? A claim filed against the state of California by a Butte County walnut grower says yes.

Niall McCarthy, Attorney, CPM LLP.

"Our investigation shows the Department of Water Resources failed to address a known hazard and made only Band-aid repairs," Attorney Niall McCarthy said in a statement, as reported by NBC Bay Area News.

McCarthy and his associate, Camilo Artiga-Purcell filed a “multi-million dollar claim” on behalf of JEM Farms and Chandon Ranch, operators of a walnut farm spanning about 2,000 acres along the east and west sides of Feather River, downstream from Lake Oroville.

Camilo Artiga-Purcell, Attorney, CPM LLP.

"For years, the state of California knew the gated spillway would fail but chose to roll the dice with the safety and property of the residents of Oroville," Artiga-Purcell said.

According to the Sacramento Bee, state officials have said that some bank erosion would have occurred regardless this year with the state’s record rainy season. Officials also stated that it’s still unclear whether fluctuation in water levels from the dam’s releases harmed the river, and those who farm alongside it.

Oroville Dam clean-up, March 2017 (Photo by Florence Low)

The claim itself alleges water officials and the Division of Safety of Dams "acted recklessly and with intent, resulting in the progressive deterioration of the performance abilities of the gated spillway at the Oroville facility," according to the news source.

As we previously reported, the state’s second-largest reservoir and country’s tallest dam sustained damages to both spillways that necessitated evacuations for thousands as the area overflowed.

While the California Department of Water Resources reported they were acting quickly to repair the damages before the next rains later this year, the claim contends that officials were aware of the spillway's instability and failed to correct it.

Details are said to be revealed further in a news conference scheduled to take place later today. We will report on this story as it develops further.