Home > Uncategorized > Breaking: the Oroville dam

Breaking: the Oroville dam

According to the most recent updates, the Oroville dam in California (the highest dam in the USA) might be on the point of collapsing (more precisely: the emergency overflow might collapse). According to Piet Dircke, an engineer of Arcadis (which since 2010 is involved with Californian watermanagement in the San Fransisco-Stockton-Sacramento triangle) there is one overriding reason why this might happen: failing maintenance maintenance. “The overflow should have been replaced 10 years ago. This has not happened because of budgettary reasons“.  And yes, people had warned, official reports and all. Do I have to remind anyone that, according to modern neoclassical theory, government investments (including maintenance) are wasteful by definition?

  1. Tom Joans
    February 13, 2017 at 10:18 pm

    Light Rail and Illegals are California first of the money list.

  2. February 14, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    It must be remarked here that dead people (like vanishing ‘consumers’) have no utility so there can never be any ‘welfare’ loss associated with the poor maintenance of infrastructures like this one. And, by assumption, the private sector would have built something much better and put maintenance above short-term profits because of the Long-Term Profits Hypothesis that Milton Friedman took as so-self evident that he never wrote about it, being very busy with his Permanent Income Hypothesis describing the consumption behavior of imaginary beings who knew to the penny how much they would earned until the moment they dropped dead, not to mention what to budget for and when –say, for a heart operation–throughout their lifetimes.


  3. Grayce
    February 14, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    The rate of return on a public utility may take too long for the private sector. To counter larrymotuz, the private sector is more likely to seek short-term profits and to delay maintenance until they either went public and took their gains in stock sales, or in some other way shifted the monetary loss of maintenance onto someone else. The modern corporation is not philanthropic. Short-term investors are not interested in sustainable businesses or infrastructure, but only in getting in, getting cash, and getting out. Which hypothesis has been proven in the world of real private sector investment in major societal needs like this? Whose name enters the business plan as the consumer of their value add? A giant hydro-electric dam is a group effort. Or was that tongue in cheek?

  4. February 20, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    By definition the interest of government agencies and public utilities is net public benefit (economic and environmental) as opposed to profit. Water project maintenance expenditures, properly determined, should minimize total capital, O&M and financial costs while providing the public benefits for which originally designed and as they change with public preferences over time. As the range of extremes of both flood and drought grows in relation to climate change and climate variability, demands on both flood and conservation storage will also grow in unanticipated ways. Structures originally designed to be rarely used over the expected life of a project, e.g. emergency spillways, may be called upon more freguently, and may require re-design and reconstruction to (1) prevent catastrophic failure, (2 avoid frequent and costly repairs, and (3) enable economical project maintenance and continued functionality in the future.

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