Let's Be Civil
What is the number one question that civil engineers hear? “So what exactly IS civil engineering?” Civil engineers are the unsung superheroes of the engineering world because if they do their job right, you shouldn’t even remember that they exist. You only really hear about civil engineers if they design something according to the ‘Build and Pray’ method and disaster strikes or if over time their designs aren't maintained or updated and disaster strikes.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) American Infrastructure report card, the United States' infrastructure got a D+ nationally with Utah and Colorado at the top of the class at C+ and Michigan at the lowest getting that D. While the ASCE does benefit from infrastructure design and maintenance, it’s an issue that both Democrats and Republicans can agree upon. Sean Spicer said this week that “…[We] need to pursue a major infrastructure package in Congress” and in January, Senate Democrats revealed their proposal to repair infrastructure nationally over the next 10 years. While across the aisle Representatives and Senators have very different ideals on how to accomplish this goal, which in turn has delayed any action, the fact that everyone on board is huge.
But will the inevitable repair come too late? The people downstream of the Oroville Dam might agree. While California has been in a drought for the last five years, this past winter is shaping to be one of the wettest on record. Despite a 2005 report by three environmental groups urging the federal government to better armor the emergency spillway, the dam remained largely untouched except for inspections done by a visual check from a ways away. While designed initially to hold a spill up to 350,000 cubic feet per second or 9 billion gallons per hour, the spillway started to fail this week at 12,000 cubic feet per second or 300 million gallons per hour. While unloading of rock and concrete has stabilized the erosion, there is still a chance that given another large precipitation event, the people downstream from the dam may be in trouble.
Aside from the trouble in Northern California, how much trouble are you in exactly? Well you can check here to see the ASCE report card in your area or here to see the state of the dams in your state.
So no matter your political affiliation, this is a dam good and concrete issue we can all get behind.