Dam Life: The Life & Times of Oroville Dam

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 14 March 2017

Dam Life: 
The Life & Times of Oroville Dam

This is written to give greater context to the costs identified in the opinion piece:

Editorial: Taxpayers deserve transparency on Oroville expenses,
Mercury News, March 13, 2017.

A Tour de Force of Irony...

March 14, 2017

From March News 

The Oroville ripoff is nothing new. We the people of California have been transparently ripped-off to fund cheater's plots since the beginning of California. The final disposition of California as an American possesion at the end of the Mexican-American War had started in 1845 with a wide variety of sketchy, unlikely plots to take control of California's vast resources, years before gold was discovered.

The end of the Mexican War and the discovery of gold in California marked the beginning of an era who's driving force was greed, its method was mining, and every possible form of social, political, economic, and personal corruption was fully employed in pursuit of that wealth.

Twain well covers the end of the gold, and beginning of the silver rush era in California and Nevada, which was the beginning of the end of the Wild West, in his classic work, Roughing It.

California's somewhat crooked path to American Statehood was not without precedent.

An important part of our national inception, funding the Revolutionary War, was likewise tainted by corruption. Hamilton supported funding downright unethical speculator's manipulations immediately after the inception of our country.

Lady Liberty has been arm-twisted by greed to fund various scammer, developer, and "scoundrel's" irresponsible greed & growth scams since she first picked-up the sword and the scales. It's been a fight between Liberty and Licence since the beginning. Since before the beginning.

Concise History of Early California

Liberty & Licence

John Adams in 1775 answered a question asked by the radical patriot Gasden from Charlestown, South Carolina, about the compositon of the patriots, of the revolutionaries around Boston. Adams answered that the patriots around Boston were composed of, "a third tories (Brit loyalists), a third scoundrels (corrupt folks), and a third were true patriots."

We'd be lucky to have those numbers today.


Birth of a Corporate Nation
Why is any of this relevant? Because we are in a war between different value systems. This is not Dem vs. Repub, nor conservative against liberal, not between any opposed sets of political values at all. This is the war between Good Will and Greed. The members of both "teams" are scattered across both parties, but Good Will is outnumbered almost everywhere.

We are involved in a contest pitting the values of our Revolutionary Forefathers against the desires of our Robber Baron Forefathers.

Today the numbers and percentages of those we can count as, "scoundrels," those who's main interests & motivations are their own greed & self-interest is significantly higher than a third of the population. Not a surprise. It's undeniable that our contemporary news, entertainment, and Ad media's focus emphasises personal self-gratification, conspicious material consumption, and on popularity, or recipically, on the pursuit of those gratifications, if we don't have them now. Ironically, even those citizen's who's lives and identities are not structured by ego and material consumption have to live within a society that is, among the vast majority of "Americans" who do.

The percentage of those we could easily call, "Tories," defined as those folks who believe in authortarian power and the right to impose compliance on the personal, private life and ethics of our citizens (Marx, the Market, and the Pope), far, far outnumbers supporters of our Constitution and its protection of  each citizen's right to each define and live by their own values, not yours.

Neither our revolutionary Forefathers, nor their ethics, or the principals established in our Constitution are acceptable to the vast majority of our political "leaders," nor the people our leaders let into the country over the last fifty years.
Our political leadership and the vast majority of these people they allowed into our country are totally dedicated to one "principal:" advancing their own personal self-interest. According to this "Constitutional theory," the US is the land of dreams and oppertunity for foreigners, where greed and self-interest put them above our mutual pact to defend each other's personal, political, and public rights. That's ass-backwards, as the expression goes.

That's the political ideology of our Robber Baron forefathers, not our Revolutionary Forefathers. There's a big difference between the two that's lost on today's political leadership and the overwhelming majority of "Americans," and the foreigners they've let in, and let sneak in.

You can't put yourself above our laws. and claim to be one of us. 


Founders of the Corporate State

Robber Barons & their Immigrant Industrial Slaves

The Evolution of the Corporate Fascist State

Birth of a Corporate Nation
My favorite historical example of brutal political corruption fueling the inception of our new "industrial" system of power and wealth was when the US Congress funded the birth of our nation's first trans-national Rail Barons with public funding for them to build their private railroad empires.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not opposed to public funding of a trans-national infrastructure. But, the Rail Barons were not only publically-funded, but used their state-funded private-monopoly railroads directly against the public & public welfare, and against our most fundamental principals, to build monopolistic control of transportation sufficient to bleed dry all business, farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, & etc. within their rail "empire's" domestic "realms." This was at the inception of California, and not much has changed since then. The corporate aristocracy owns our infrastructure today, as they did back then, and we paid to build it today, as we did back then. We finance our own asset-stripping today as we did then. Those were the days of unadulterated corruption! (Read Howe, Confessions of a Reformer, 1925!)

The same contests that the local Rail Barons fought among each other to attain as big a chunk of national control as they possibly could, was also being played out across every sector of the economy as American economic life "nationalized." This resulted in monumental local and regional Robber Baron fights (think Godzilla vs Mothra), over who would control each of our nation's burgeoning economic "sectors."
Victory entailed control of that sector of the national economy's natural, human, economic, and political resources into the forseeable future, all beginning forty years earlier, with the rise of the local Rail Barons on the back of massed Irish immigrants.

The "winners" finally emerged in the 1880s, giving birth to an American Corporate Aristocracy more pernacious than the Brit aristocracy of blood that we threw off a century earlier. The American Corporate Aristocracy quickly developed institutions capable of keeping this overwhelming political power and its almost unimaginable wealth within its families, and transfering both wealth and power between generations over time, without dispersing any of its social, political, or economic clout.

They truly built a new aristocracy, built on a new, "corporate" structure organizing a new industrial power.

Thus the final battle of our Revolution was not fought and lost until the unimaginable untapped wealth of a virtually empty virgin continent, with all of its natural resource intact, became fuel for the growth of a new nation unrestrained by a traditional aristocracy, unrestrained by any over-bearing traditions, which was rapidly adopting and advancing the Industrial Revolution.

Cutting to the chase, the Robber Barons engineered a massive influx of immigrants that  killed the Indians, cleared their lands, then build the industrial machine that became the foundation for the birth of a whole new type of aristocracy, one constructed on the monopolization of industrial, rather than landed resources, one that captured and passed along vast sums of money and industrial empires, rather than noble titles, blood, and landed estates.

The American Corporate Aristocracy's real accomplishment was beating our Constitution's prohibitions against exactly this type of aristocratic authority from forming, while retaining the appearance of legitimacy.
The rise of an industrial aristocracy based on organized greed tapping unprecented Natural resources using mass migrations of Eastern and Southern Euro peasants to build a classic aristocracy, but built by and upon the latest industrial technology, assured that the American Revolution had not just created the latest evolution of the expansion of public liberty, but had also created the environment that, "opened the door," for the birth of the latest form of aristocracy capable of destroying those liberties and the democratic republic that gave birth to it.

Today, just like back then with the Rail Barons, our financial support (taxes) and resources are being used the same way today. In this example, for subsidizing the water infrastructure necessary to continue the growth scam that is central to feeding and maintaining the banker-developer-politician's (the "scoundrels," as John Adams would call them) irresponsible, endless-growth "human" Ponzi Scheme.

Repairs or maintinence billed to private interests are done for as cheaply as possible, or deferred.

In short, when not done TOTALLY on our dime, the State and Federal commissions overseeing our basic public infrastructures have been completely captured by our Corporate Masters, who's bribes have had the effect of minimizing their costs of upkeep, by increasing the potential dangers that this infrastructure of public responsibility and private profit poses to the very public that funds it!
In the meantime, the irresponsible growth that the Oroville Dam infrastructure supported has subsequently brought what all irresponsible growth and development brings: destruction of our social wealth under increasing safety concerns supporting population growth designed to transfer the wealth and power of our society, to satisfy the extreme greed of a very few people. 

Unlike the last waves of irresponsible growth which built a corporate aristocracy by ravaging an unspoiled natural environment, this wave is finishing off those, our natural resource, "remnants," while being used to strip-down and transfer the infrastructural and institutional wealth, to focus the control of the wealth and power of our nation, into the fewest hands ever.

Socially, the Oroville Dam has spawned and supported the, "machine," necessary to accomplish this, being the growth of vast multi-million megacities filled with poverty and slums up and down the West Coast of California, and through the heart of its Big Valley.
While doing so, while pumping-up this vast population in California, our educational system, our infrastructure, our power system, roads, bridges, and our water systems have all gone from "best in the world," when Oroville was built, to "worse in USA," or very close, today.

Nothing was spent to maintain any aspect of our system, or its values.

Wages, benefits, education levels, and access to a decent life have narrowed down to the diameter of a rat hole, and the remnants of our middle class are living like third world refugees in their own country. Using these policies, these same policies of the original Robber Barons, our contemporary rich have stolen the most wealth and political power in the history of the USA, using projects such as Oroville to drive this irresponsible growth forward. This type of irresponsible growth moves all wealth to the top. These are just the facts.

"Growth and Globalization" have been the tools both parties and their corporate paymasters have used to perpetuate the greatest transfer of wealth in human history. Between 1964 and today irresponsible domestic population growth and "globalization" have executed the transfer of the wealth and political power of the American middle class to our corporate leaders, up to the "1%." This is a fact. It already happened. 

Our corporate elite have used irresponsible population growth and foreign trade to strip Nature of its internal balances while robbing it of its external resources while stripping Middle-Class Americans (and everyone below) of almost all of our wealth, most of our political power, and the beauty and power of our environment.


Today we are looking at merely one aspect, one face of the many hidden long term costs of our past growth projects, such as in managing this Oroville Dam Crisis, while our leaders make haste to build new ones ASAP.
In the meantime the quality of education, medicine, wages, benefits, and all aspects of California Living have deteriorated along with the Oroville Dam over its lifetime. Our social and environmental infrastructures have been "asset-stripped," through the mechanism of rapid irresponsible corporate growth. Infrastructure like Oroville Dam are critical to make rapid expansion, to make this asset-stripping possible. 

We had to buy them the tools of our own destruction.

California's water infrastructure made possible the rapid growth that fueled vast social imbalances that have allowed our greedy politicians and their corporate sponsors to diplace middle-class democratic practices, to both amass great wealth, and politically dominate our society. Besides achieving their primairy goals, this type of growth generates significant secondary effects. It has damaged the nature of reality itself, both socially and environmentally.


Environmentally, the existing populations in LA and the South Valley depend heavily on water coming from behind the compromised Oroville Dam. This is two bets. The first bet is on a continued snow pack in the Sierra. The second is on the long term capacity of the Oroville Dam to capture and store it.

Sierra Snowpack Could Drop 79% by End of Century

Make no mistake, Oroville is environmentally compromised both physically and strategically. Physically, it is questionable that Oroville can currently store (when it can capture) enough of its capacity to fulfill its current obligations to those existing populations, let alone act as part of a stable state system necessary to fulfill our greedy corporate dreamers' desires of endless future growth. Those would both clearly be very irresponsible assumptions.


Strategically, Oroville and the whole Calfiornia Water System were set up to capture melting snow water from the Sierra to support vast urban populations. Ironically, moving our manufacturing to China and the massive expansion of our population, both very "popular" trends that make California a global leader in foolishness, are exactly the policies triggering our global climate catastrophy.
It's our own "behaviors," when it comes down to it, it's our errant beliefs that are the real drivers of the irresponsible growth policies that are transforming our Sierra snow into rain. We cannot grow forever. We have already grown too much. Our "belief system," based on the endless expansion of consumption, production, profit, and greed makes it impossible for many of us to even conceive of "balanced" population growth policies.

Politically, environmental balance and ethical principals comes in at far distant second and third places behind the goal of unrelenting growth and greed that dominates the "liberal-progressive mindset" that dominates political thinking in California. Even though it's well known that environmental, ethical, and social destruction are the historical, time-honored cost of greed's victory.

California's politics are today's, "enlarged," modern version of the Tammany Hall of 19th century New York, a machine of graft and corruption that ate the Souls of Men and the Spirit of Nature in pursuit of runaway gratifications.
Tammany Hall and the corporate Democrats of 19th century New York had a vast, untapped treasure chest of a continent at their backs, stretching 3000 miles to the Pacific. Tammany Hall did their very best to fuel the stripping of these untapped resources across New York and the whole Northeast of the United States, while providing wave after wave of settlers to drive the indians off their lands, armies of cheap Irish labor to build a fundamental road & bridge infrastructure, after which their bosses, the Robber Barons, would step-in to, "industrailze," rationalize, monopilize, and finally control the vast majority of the wealth of our nation's Western expansion and almost full domination of its human and Natural resources, just as it is today.

"Liberals" support the Corporate Growth Machine of Death in California! They call today's massive  irresponsible growth and environmental destruction, "progressive!" The irony is delicious! Today's Dems serve today's billionaires like yester-year's Tamanny Hall served their Robber Barons.

They are like pool players delibertly putting us behind the 8-Ball!

From an environmental viewpoint it is the behavior of "Californians," their program of massive population growth and sending manufacturing to China, that are the main forces driving not just global climate change, but driving the Sierra weather changing from snow to rain, from cold to warm.  It is Californian's own ignorance we are experiencing in our weird weather, it is our own behaviors that are driving us from a Natural Wonderland into our own self-created dry future that will no longer reliably support us or our vast megacities. Nature is again driving us from the garden for our own sins.

None of the nature of reality is of interest to most, "Californians." They are too busy living their greedy consumer, "dreams," of gross consumption while playing out their Nature-destroying, "progressive fantasies" in their vast megacities...


Depending on Oroville as a stable foundation for future growth generates textbook definitions of both irresponsibity and irony... Ironically, our irresponsible growth has changed the fundamental availability of resources (social and natural) that first made good living here in California even possible. Circumstances and evidence indicates the days of sufficient snow pack and subsequently, water, are currently coming to a close, as they did with decent pay, benefits, and education twenty years ago.

That's just a coincidence, right? We have not been asset-stripped by corporate growth, have we? Our corporate growth is not killing Nature, is it?


Our irresponsible global growth program is well on the way to transforming the Sierra climate into one with much warmer Winters composed of rain rather than snow. We are already well down the trail to a future Sierra Nevada that will starve-out the vast populations in California's megacities, despite their vast water system built to capture snow runoff. I suspect we are currently entering a period of droughts and floods that will both be virtually immune to capture before it really dries out here.


Call it the self-created end of the self-serving "California Lie," and the beginning of the, "California Nightmare." The first rumblings of these long-term repercussions of our long-term irresponsible behavior should have long ago encouraged us to put logical and decent restraints on the greedy and their program of endless irresponsible growth. We Failed then and are still failing today. Now our failures have made us all passengers on, "Ma Nature's Wild Ride," and this ride will not end until Nature finds balance, with or without us. Hold on tight. Make sure the kids are securely strapped-in...


I fear (know) we have allowed the damages of our irresponsible growth to continue for so long we have triggered environmental changes and destruction that are far bigger and will long outlast the population we stuffed into this state.

Most encouraging is that these environmental effects will outlast and strip naked the false intellectual and ideological self-justifications to expose the real underlaying corrupt desires & behaviors that allowed corporate and individual greed to come together to overwhelm honesty, honor, Nature, and basic common sense. This will be quite a lesson.

Most disturbing is that the cost of our corruptions can be clearly seen blowing in the changing winds and weather. These are omens speaking to the destruction we are visiting on the sophistication and power of the web of life that sustains all. Few are aware of these changes, and fewer aware of their import. That has disturbing implications for the future of Nature and its Web of Life.


The beliefs, behaviors, and practices of typical, "Californians," are working to effectively lobotomize the sophistication of the Web of Life Itself. California's "progressive" Corporate Growth program is Death for Nature because it's growth consumes the web of life itself. Our current approach to, "environmentalism," is not just ignorant of Nature, but is critically destructive to natural cycles we are completely dependent on.

Ironically, every decline in the sophistication and power of the Web of Life in Nature will result in porportional reduction in the sophistication and power of humans and their societies. Our greed has deep costs few now measure, let alone see. We will live poorly in a lobotomized ecosystem, if we live at all.

After all of our destructive effects on Nature are finally done we might yet learn something after all. We may finally learn that greed is bad, and that Irresponsible growth profits few and endangers all. We "learned" those lessons as Americans once before with the Dust Bowl and Great Depression.

I guess those were not big enough lessons.


Updated Research

41% Sierra & Rocky Mountains Snow Pack Loss since ‘82

Sierra Snowpack Could Drop 79% by End of Century


Oroville Dam Debacle

2005 Oroville Dam Warnings unheeded


It's Over and We Killed It:
Climate change puts California’s snowpack under the weather,
AGU, Geo Space, March 9, 2017.


Oroville Federal Regulators are the same,
"FERC (that) allowed ENRON to turn us upside down and shake all the money out of our pockets"


Will Oroville Make It Through Winter & Thaw of 2017?



March 8 Observation
Basic Factor Controlling Spring Weather Development: Where will the High Go?


Our Final Answer 
We Need a New Environmentalism




Rearranging Impacts of Ecological Wreckage




Water News 




November 2017 High Sierra General News 


Powered by Drupal, an open source content management system

Latest News: RSS FEED

Syndicate content

Support Tahoe to Whitney

The Tahoe to Whitney Trail Guide and Magazine are walked, written, funded, and supported by my efforts, with the help of kindred spirits and my sister.

We offer valuable Trail Guide, Skills, Weather, News and Analysis.

My goal is to get you out to see your natural and social potential. Help me keep this unique resource accessible and expanding towards its potential. We've a lot of miles to cover ahead...

If you feel these efforts are valuable, I'm cordially inviting you to support them, here:



I am currently working towards publishing the completed guide between Tahoe & Yosemite as an e-book, while converting this "blog" to a fine magazine format. You will like the results! Help Tahoe to Whitney reach its potential!


Why Support Tahoe to Whitney?
Mission Statement