Millions of Californians’ water bills could climb after Trump’s FEMA won’t pay $300M for Oroville Dam

Millions of Californians could end up with higher water bills after the Trump administration on Friday announced that federal emergency officials aren’t going to reimburse the state for $306 million in repairs to Oroville Dam stemming from the 2017 spillway crisis.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said federal taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for problems that existed prior to a massive hole forming in the dam’s concrete spillway in February 2017, eventually prompting the two-day evacuation of 188,000 downstream residents and a $1.1 billion emergency response and repair job.

Oroville Dam – the nation’s tallest – is operated by a state agency, but it was built and maintained using funds from agricultural and urban water agencies that store water at Lake Oroville, such as the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.Metropolitan supplies water to more than 19 million people, whose water bills could rise if the federal government decides not to pay. In total, Oroville Dam water for 27 million Californians.

In a brief statement, Federal Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Brandi Richard said her agency wouldn’t reimburse California for costs related to the “upper gated spillway” because of pre-existing problems on the giant concrete structure.

The state plans to appeal the decision that repairs to the upper spillway aren’t ineligible for federal funds.