President Trump approved Tuesday disaster relief for California, putting an end to speculation that the bad blood between the White House and Gov. Jerry Brown would jeopardize the state’s plea for emergency aid.
The Federal Emergency Management Administration announced that the assistance would be provided “due to the emergency conditions resulting from the potential failure of the emergency spillway at Lake Oroville Dam beginning on February 7, 2017, and continuing.”
Mr. Brown, a Democrat who called Mr. Trump a “fraud” during last year’s presidential campaign, made the request for federal help Friday after heavy rainstorms inundated Northern California, flooding creeks, washing out roads and damaging infrastructure.
The crisis culminated Sunday with the evacuation of nearly 200,000 residents near the Oroville Dam, which saw sheets of water cascade over its earthen walls and an enormous sinkhole open up on the emergency concrete spillway.
In its statement, FEMA said the president’s action would allow the agency to coordinate disaster relief in order to alleviate “hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population,” and provide assistance “in order to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the counties of Butte, Sutter, and Yuba.”
The evacuation order was downgraded Tuesday to an evacuation warning after state authorities managed to discharge enough water to avert the flooding threat from the massive 770-foot dam, the tallest in the nation.
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Mr. Brown has taken a number of jabs at the president, declaring in December that “we’re ready to fight” over differences of opinion on climate change, and that the state is prepared to “launch its own damn satellites” if the federal government reduces its role.
Meanwhile, the Democrat-controlled California legislature has retained former Attorney General Eric Holder at a rate of $25,000 per month to counter the Trump administration’s initiatives.
Mr. Trump said earlier this month that “California in many ways is out of control” in response to the state legislature’s consideration of a sanctuary-state bill.
Mr. Brown’s request for aid prompted some smirking on conservative websites such as the Gateway Pundit, which ran the headline, “Trump is suddenly recognized as the president in CALIFORNIA as liberal state BEGS for his help.”
At the same time, Mr. Brown wasn’t the only Californian seeking federal assistance. California House Republicans also sent letters to the White House asking for emergency relief in response to the heavy rainfall.
Prior to FEMA’s announcement Tuesday, Rep. Tom McClintock, California Republican, said he thought it was “silly to suggest that politics would hold up a disaster declaration,” adding that he had signed two letters supporting the request.
The fact-check website Snopes debunked as “fake news” a report that Mr. Trump had rejected the disaster declaration over California’s sanctuary city policies and the signature-gathering campaign to secede from the union.
The Butte County Sheriff’s office said in a Tuesday alert that the water level at the Oroville reservoir “has dropped 12 feet below the top of the auxiliary spillway and no longer has water flowing over the top.”
“This mitigation work will reduce the risk of erosion should the emergency spillway have to be used again, although flow through the primary spillway will continue to attempt to lower the reservoir to 851 feet (approximately 50 feet below full),” said the sheriff’s office in a statement.
At the same time, “all residents are advised to remain vigilant and prepared as conditions can rapidly change,” said the statement.
More rainfall is expected later this week in Oroville, located about 70 miles north of Sacramento, although the forecast is for significantly less rain than in previous storms, said acting California Department of Water Resources director Bill Croyle.