Oroville Dam And Infrastructure Neglect Under Capitalism

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February 13, 2017 – Fort Russ News

JPGazeta – Translated by Kristina Kharlova

Alexander Rogers

The unfolding catastrophe at the Oroville dam in Northern California was not a surprise.

About eight or nine years ago, I did an extensive analytical report based on review of publications in American media and other open data on the subject of the general deterioration of American infrastructure. And even then, it was all very sad.

Since then the situation has only deteriorated. However, let’s begin from the start.

A large part of American infrastructure was built during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt – dams, bridges, power plants and power lines, a substantial part of the railways and almost all of the interstate highway system. 

Then, during the Great Depression and chronic unemployment, several million semi-slaves working in “labor armies” just for food (most of them did not receive any money for their work, only meager soup), created the basis of modern prosperity of the United States. Hard labor. The death toll on these construction sites in the US is still classified (perhaps, Trump will finally reveal this mystery), but a number of researchers based on the available statistical data believe that this figure significantly exceeds half a million people.

Dams, bridges and roads created by the state, which attracted nearly free labor of people desperate to find work. And then transferred to the ownership of private companies.

It was anticipated that the use of roads and bridges will be paid by the public, and the operating company will use the money to carry out repairs and upgrades. But this is capitalism! What capitalist wants to invest, if you can just extract profits?

Therefore, the vast majority of US infrastructure did not have a major overhaul since its creation – that is, many objects since the thirties, that is – 70-80 years. Cosmetic repair, that is, to plaster, paint and hang beautiful banners – of course. But there is a huge backlog of major upgrades, requiring significant investments.

Don’t forget about the “high American quality standards”. In the USSR, dams and bridges were build with a margin of durability of hundreds percent. But in the capitalist United States, the margin of durability was expected in the best case to be at 30-40%, and often even lower. After all, the more reliable the structure the more material (and often more expensive), more labor, and that means expenses. A capitalist tries to save on everything. Even on safety.

The Oroville Dam was built after Roosevelt. Construction began in 1961 and was completed in 1968. But for almost fifty years no one thought to repair it. As a result, in the words of one of Ukrainian president: “We have what we have”.

Moreover, to help you understand the engineering thought of its creators, a few years after construction, in 1975, the dam experienced an induced earthquake of the magnitude of 5.7, caused by the miscalculations of the team of architects and developers who were unable to calculate the load on the ground from such a huge construction (the highest dam in the United States, 230 meters in height).

And, to finally complete the picture, in 2005, three different independent expert groups have submitted reports to the state and Federal government on the need for urgent (emergency) replacement of the ground drainage by a concrete one, as well as strengthening of some parts of the dam with additional masonry. Nobody cares.

The US government for twelve years was too busy trashing other countries, starting with Libya and ending with Russia, and they could care less about internal affairs. As a result the poor Californians were almost burned several times with forest fires, and now, as you see, could be drowned.

And now, as is absolutely natural and predictable, the old, never repaired in 50 years, dam threatens to wash away homes of more than 200 thousand people. If they are lucky and they have time to evacuate – without inhabitants.

But most importantly, it is not an isolated case and not the exception. The infrastructure is in poor condition throughout the United States (you should just look at the pictures of their railroads and rolling stock, it’s really the nineteenth century!). And what is happening today in California, tomorrow could happen anywhere.

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