New Director Appointed at Department of Water Resources, Executive Team Restructured to Strengthen Dam and Flood Safety, Climate Resiliency

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has announced the appointment of Karla Nemeth to serve as Director of DWR. Nemeth has been deputy secretary and senior advisor for water policy at the California Natural Resources Agency since 2014, was Bay-Delta Conservation Plan project manager at the California Natural Resources Agency from 2009 to 2014 and was environmental and public affairs director at the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, Zone 7 from 2005 to 2009. She brings extensive knowledge of the state’s water system, California Water Action Plan and California WaterFix to the position. Nemeth succeeds Grant Davis, who is returning to Sonoma County Water Agency to serve as General Manager.

DWR also announced the restructuring and elevation of a number of positions on its executive team to help improve long-term planning and day-to-day management of key water programs, dam safety and flood control – functions that are increasingly critical in the face of climate change. This includes replacing an existing executive position – Deputy Director for Integrated Water Management – with two positions tightly focused on priority areas. One position, Deputy Director for Flood Management and Dam Safety, will focus specifically on flood management, dam safety and the operation of DWR’s dams, consistent with recommendations from the Independent Forensic Team tasked with examining the Oroville Dam spillways incident. The other, Deputy Director for Integrated Water Management and Multi-Benefit Programs, will focus on long-range planning and integrated water management.

Independent Report on Oroville Will Bolster Dam Safety Program

The Independent Forensic Team (IFT) recently released additional findings from its review of the February 2017 Lake Oroville Spillways incident. The report builds on the IFT’s interim memo from September 2017 that identified physical causes of the incident. While DWR is in the process of fully reviewing this lengthy report, the Department intends to incorporate the latest findings into its ongoing efforts to ensure public safety, water supply reliability, and the integrity of its infrastructure.

“We strongly supported having an independent assessment of the spillway failure and take the findings very seriously,” said DWR Director Grant Davis. “This report is consistent with the independent team’s initial technical findings from last May which were fully incorporated in the design of the reconstructed spillways. As we have done in the past, we will carefully assess this report, share it with the entire dam safety community and incorporate the lessons learned going forward to ensure California continues to lead the nation on dam safety.”

DWR agrees with the IFT’s conclusion that all dam owners need to reassess current procedures, and supports challenging current assumptions on what constitutes ‘best practice’ in our industry. Consistent with Governor Brown’s four-point plan to strengthen dam safety and flood protection, an evaluation and expansion of DWR’s dam safety program is already underway, and as a result of the IFT’s findings, DWR will also assess its organizational structures.

Oroville Dam Road and Spillway Boat Ramp Update

Oroville Dam Road (across the top of the dam) and the spillway boat ramp launch will re-open to the public once construction is complete. DWR understands the importance of access to these areas by residents in Oroville and around the region.

For more information, follow DWR on Twitter or Facebook, read our news releases or visit our Oroville Spillway Incident webpage.

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