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BOC Reports

Reports from the Lake Oroville Spillways Recovery Project Board of Consultants

Memoranda (reports) prepared by the independent Board of Consultants about the Lake Oroville spillways are posted below, along with summaries. Critical Energy Infrastructure Information (CEII) has been redacted. DWR will follow this same protocol for future reports from the Board of Consultants.

Safety and security are DWR’s top priorities. Since there is strong interest in these reports, we released them in a way that provides public information about the Lake Oroville spillway incident response and recovery, while protecting information that could be used for terrorist activity.

Following rules and guidelines set by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), DWR evaluated the Board of Consultants reports and identified information regarding specific engineering, vulnerability, or detailed design that could be useful to a person in planning an attack on critical infrastructure. Reports containing CEII, like those from the Board of Consultants, are not released to the public.

The Role of the Board of Consultants

Significant independent oversight is required for all modifications or repairs to dams and their related facilities. The recovery of Lake Oroville’s gated (or main) spillway and the emergency spillway is being reviewed by three independent bodies:

  • California Division of Safety of Dams (DSOD)
  • Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and an
  • Independent Board of Consultants (BOC)

The DSOD supervises dams under its jurisdiction, in part, by reviewing plans, specifications and technical reports prior to approving repairs for construction. As Oroville Dam provides hydroelectric power, FERC also reviews plans, specs, and reports prior to approving repairs on the recovery project.

An independent Board of Consultants is required by California Water Code (Division 3, Part 1, Chapter 3, Section 6056) for modifications to any dam owned by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). FERC also requires an independent Board of Consultants to review and comment on repairs to dams under their supervisory authority.

DWR convened experts to serve as members of the BOC. They are compensated by DWR. They now include the members listed here. BOC members may change as different technical expertise is required. This is a list of the first members of the Board of Consultants:

  • Kerry Cato, Ph.D., Engineering Geology; M.S., Engineering Geology; B.S., Geology
  • John J. Cassidy, Ph.D., Mechanics and Hydraulics; M.S., Civil Engineering; B.S., Civil Engineering
  • Eric Kollgaard, B.S., Civil Engineering
  • Faiz Makdisi, Ph.D., Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering; M.A., Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering; B.E., Civil Engineering

The BOC began meeting with DWR and its emergency response partners on March 1, 2017 to review and assess operations, conditions, and risk reduction measures associated with the dam and appurtenant structures. The BOC will continue in this role during the entire repair of the gated and emergency spillways.

DWR has a team of engineers and other professionals designing, and ultimately overseeing, the construction of the Lake Oroville spillways recovery project. DWR develops technical information, including design plans and specifications, that will be used to construct all necessary repairs.

Since the objective is to repair the gated spillway to the level that it can be used by November 1, 2017, the process includes an accelerated review by the oversight bodies. This includes frequent meetings where the DWR team presents partial design concepts to DSOD, FERC and the BOC for review and comment. This is an interactive and deliberative process, with the goal of developing a final design for the project.

All comments and recommendations by the BOC are preliminary, with each comment individually evaluated by DWR. In some cases, BOC comments and recommendations are incorporated into the design. In other cases, further evaluation is necessary prior to implementation; or information is developed and presented that reverses a prior opinion of the BOC. In all cases, each recommendation is carefully tracked and worked through between the BOC, DSOD, FERC, and DWR.

Along with verbal interaction, the BOC develops written memoranda for each meeting, which documents their opinions and recommendations.

It was BOC’s first memoranda – also referred to as a report – that began the recent confusion about public access to the information. BOC memoranda contain Critical Energy Infrastructure Information under guidelines provided by FERC and the Federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS), so the first memoranda (report) should not have been made public in full.

About Critical Engineering Infrastructure Information

After September 11, 2001, it became apparent that certain infrastructure in the United States is susceptible to acts of terrorism and could be used as weapons of mass destruction. In 2003, the federal government established the Dams Sector as a U.S. critical infrastructure sector, recognizing the significant economic, environmental, and social contributions of its assets and resources. Since that time, the Sector has successfully built public-private partnerships, improved information-sharing, created forums to share best practices, developed tools and exercises to improve security and resilience.

Consistent with recommended guidelines from DHS, FERC later established the Critical Energy Infrastructure Information (CEII) designation. The purpose of CEII is to ensure that certain information is not disclosed which potentially outlines vulnerabilities or detailed design information about a proposed or existing critical infrastructure.

18 Code of Federal Regulations section 388.113(c)(2) defines Critical Energy Infrastructure Information (CEII) as: “…specific engineering, vulnerability, or detailed design information about proposed or existing critical infrastructure that:

  • Relates details about the production, generation, transportation, transmission, or distribution of energy;
  • Could be useful to a person in planning an attack on critical infrastructure;
  • Is exempt from mandatory disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552; and
  • Does not simply give the general location of the critical infrastructure.”

CEII is also exempt from the California Public Records Act, per 16 USC 824o-1(d).

Although most of the information within the BOC reports are not considered CEII, there is specific information outlined in the memoranda that has been redacted for security purposes. Early BOC memoranda has minimal amounts of critical information, while later BOC memoranda is expected to contain more specific details and may have more redacted information.

The BOC memoranda contain preliminary and extremely technical information. It will be very difficult to read the reports and understand the interactive process that takes place as part of the meetings. In addition, the memoranda do not stand alone, as they represent information from previous reports and discussions from numerous meetings. In most cases the BOC description is their interpretation of what was presented to them by DWR and is repeated in their report to ensure common understanding of the issues discussed between the BOC and DWR.

DWR developed a summary of the most important concepts in less technical terms for each BOC memoranda, and plans to do the same for future memoranda.