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How Disaster Was Averted at the Glen Canyon Dam in 1983
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Here’s a documentary about the 1983 near-catastrophe at the spectacular Glen Canyon dam on the Colorado River near the Arizona-Utah border in the upper reaches of Grand Canyon. Lake Powell is about 8 times the volume of Lake Oroville, so a dam collapse would have been apocalyptic:

Strikingly, as Part 2 below recounts, one way they kept the dam from overflowing was by temporarily raising the height of the dam by installing vertical flashboards in a two day long effort. Could something similar be done along Oroville’s 1730 foot emergency spillway? How long would it take to add, say, 8 feet to the height of the emergency spillway?

Here’s Part 3:

One thing to keep in mind is that the immediate fight to save Glen Canyon dam went on for several months in the summer of 1983. And this was followed by a sprint in 1984, which turned out to be even wetter than 1983, to make substantial repairs and improvements to the spillways. All told the effort took about 14 months.

Thanks to Lake Powell Realty for finding these videos.

At the Oroville Dam today, a half-inch of rain fell in the early morning hours. Because the watershed is roughly 144 times as large as the lake, that would, theoretically eventually convert to a 6 foot rise in the lake (or perhaps more if more precipitation fell at higher altitude, as usually happens). So far, the inflow into the lake hasn’t gone up much and they’re continue to drain the lake down the main spillway. It’s now down 37 feet from the emergency spillway’s brim.

Outflow down the main spillway has been cut from 100,000 cubic feet per second to 80,000 cubic feet per second. The goal is to lower the water level backing up the river to the dam so that the power station can be restarted, which would allow an additional 13,000 cfs of outflow. They are dredging the river to remove the partial dam caused by debris from the hole in the spillway landing in the river. (There is also some concern about heavy intake of water damaging the bottom of the lake, although I’m not sure if that is relevant at present or only at lower levels of the lake.)

Weather Underground is forecasting 7.85″ of precipitation over the next seven days, followed by 3 days of sun, at the small town of Feather Falls at 2900 feet elevation inside the reservoir’s watershed. At a rule of thumb of one inch of precipitation eventually equals a 12 foot rise in the reservoir, that would add about 100 feet to the lake’s level. On the other hand, if they can pump out, say, 8 feet per day over the next ten days, that would lower the lake 80 feet, which, with the current 36 foot buffer, would keep the lake 17 feet below the emergency spillway.

Or something. My model is super simplistic, and a lot of other factors can come into play.

 
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  1. stretch says:
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  2. TangoMan says:

    After this is all done I hope someone figures out the foregone power generation and dollar value of the power that was lost by releasing the water down the spillway.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    I imagine that's what the Department of Water Resources dam management was worried about during the rains from 2/2 to 2/6 as they maintained the water level at 850 feet rather than flush a lot of valuable water down the river to get ready for the second half of the long set of storms from 2/7 to 2/10.

    In general, our concepts of things like 100 Year Floods and 1000 Year Floods are based on what we have measurements for, which is usually roughly the 20th Century. But it's quite possible that the 20th Century wasn't all that representative. It's quite possible the 21st Century will be quite a bit more extreme in one way or another.

    For example, one commenter has pointed out that Los Angeles, which averaged 15 inches of rain per year in the 20th Century, received 66 inches in 1861-62.

    Here's another Old Weird California weather fact. Richard Henry Dana visited California on a sailing ship out of Boston in the mid-1830s and came back to write an 1840 bestseller about it, Two Years Before the Mast. One of the themes of his book was the trouble caused by a routine cold wind out of the east which blew his ship almost to Hawaii. It had a name and was considered by Californios to be a common pest. But we don't have it today. We have a warm wind out of the southeast, the notorious Santa Ana made famous by Raymond Chandler:


    “There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.”
     
    Here's an insane tribute to the Santa Ana winds by the Frankie Valli/Pee Wee Herman narrator of "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend:"

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4qvpHZzZGI

    But, apparently, there used to be a cold wind from the East in Southern California.

    Yet, when Dana revisited California after the Civil War, he mentioned that the cold wind had stopped.

    That's weird.

    But maybe the future will be weird.
    , @Anonym
    After this is all done I hope someone figures out the foregone power generation and dollar value of the power that was lost by releasing the water down the spillway.

    As a natural tightwad, this is something that bothers me too.

    I worked out earlier that the energy in the Oroville dam was 5E15 Joules. Dropping 37 of 770 feet means that at least (37/770) * 5 E15 Joules was expended. In fact, more than this because there is a lot more water in the top 37 feet than the rest of the dam, foot for foot.

    To convert Joules to kWh, multiply by 2.78E-7. So, there is (37/770) * 5E15 * 2.78E-7 = 6.8E7 kWh wasted, or at $0.18/kWh, $12M. Is this right? Only if there was no influx of water into the dam right now. But there is a crisis on due to rainfall, so obviously there is a lot of water flowing in. The total dam's worth of energy is at least $250M when full.

    If we are putting out 100k ft^3/s, then that is the same as 2831m^3/s.

    GPE
    = mgh
    = 2831000 * 9.8 * 235
    =6.5 E9 Joules

    Note that Joules per second is Watts, so the fact that we are expending 6.5E9 Joules per second is the same as saying that we are expending 6.5E9 Watts, or 6.5E6 kW, or 6.5 E3 MW, or 6.5GW. Does this make sense? Total installed capacity is 819MW, or 0.819GW. When we consider that the turbines can only use 13000 cubic feet per second, then one would expect that if we scaled it up by 100/13 then using 100k cubic feet per second would generate 6.3GW. So my math looks correct.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oroville_Dam#Hydroelectricity

    Convert Joules to kWh, multiply by 2.78E-7, so 6.5 E9 joules * 2.78E-7 = 1807kWh. Retail in cali is 18c/kWh.

    https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.cfm?t=epmt_5_6_a

    So we have $325/second being pissed away in power. That's $325 * 3600/hour or $1.17M/hour. $28M per day.

    I wonder how much it costs to double or triple the dam's capacity, and maintain that.

    https://www.renewablesfirst.co.uk/hydropower/hydropower-learning-centre/how-much-do-hydropower-systems-cost-to-build/

    Ok, so it costs $4k per kW installed, USD.

    https://www.quora.com/How-much-does-it-cost-to-make-1MW-hydroelectric-plant

    Another estimate is $3-6M per Megawatt. Which is in the ballpark. So it would cost roughly $3 billion to build the same capacity as it already has, let alone the capacity to handle this once in decades deluge. Considering this spillway has been used what, once? I think they got the capacity fairly right. It depends on how long the crisis lasts. It would have to last 125 days to match even the existing spend on generation capacity. Seems unlikely. And the plant won't get the retail value of the electricity. Maybe it would need to have a crisis lasting 250 days.

    One can say that they should have used more water for power earlier, but it's a balance - the higher you let the dam go, the more power you can generate per liter, but you will occasionally have to waste some over the spillway.

    , @AndrewR
    I have no idea why this question even occurred to you. Surely it's many orders of magnitude less than the economic costs that would result from thirty feet of the reservoir blasting down the river at once, to say nothing of other costs.
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  3. Luke Lea says:

    Have to admire the Can Do spirit of the men who fixed it.

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    • Agree: Dan Hayes
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  4. anon says: • Disclaimer

    I mostly can’t read it anymore, but the New Yorker is against dams.

    http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/one-of-africas-biggest-dams-is-falling-apart

    And dams don’t make money.

    In 2014, researchers at Oxford University reviewed the financial performance of two hundred and forty-five dams and concluded that the “construction costs of large dams are too high to yield a positive return.”

    Kariba’s collapse, like Mosul’s, would constitute an epochal event in the history of energy development—the dam industry’s Chernobyl.

    Sounds more like a wish than a fear. But the dam industry’s Chernobyl has already happened: Banqiao and Shimantan Dams — 171,000 fatalities.

    Extreme rainfall, beyond the planned design capability of the dam, dumped on China by Typhoon Nina. 11 million people lost their homes. Dam would later be rebuilt between 1986 and 1993. The People’s Daily has maintained that the dam was designed to survive a once-in-1000-years flood (300 mm of rainfall per day) but a once-in-2000-years flood occurred in August 1975

    But his prior article got my attention:

    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/02/a-bigger-problem-than-isis

    Iraq has ‘act of god’ problems.

    If the dam ruptured, it would likely cause a catastrophe of Biblical proportions, loosing a wave as high as a hundred feet that would roll down the Tigris, swallowing everything in its path for more than a hundred miles. Large parts of Mosul would be submerged in less than three hours.

    I have to hand it to the Chinese. Hell, it was engineered for a 1 in 1000 year event. Since it failed, it was obviously a 1 in 2000 year event.

    However, the more interesting thing is that none of these was *that* much of a surprise. They were all disasters *waiting to happen*. The old Who/Whom. They build them to store water and they are going to do it … flood control is a secondary benefit, until it doesn’t work and it becomes a problem.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous
    Anti-dam propaganda has been around for a while. The elites have been against dams as part of a broader anti-industry and anti-manufacturing trend. Environmental concerns are cited for the opposition to dams, and dams obviously have major environmental impacts, but that's the not the sole or chief concern.
    , @anon
    As far as hydro being a bad investment, BEP disagrees.

    https://bep.brookfield.com/~/media/Files/B/Brookfield-BEP-IR/events-and-presentations/bep-fact-sheet.pdf

    A Canadian MLP that invests in renewable infrastructure, primarily hydro.
    , @Mr. Anon

    The Mosul Dam is failing. A breach would cause a colossal wave that could kill as many as a million and a half people.
     
    That would be a worse disaster for Iraq than even Madeleine Albright or George W. Bush.

    I have to hand it to the Chinese. Hell, it was engineered for a 1 in 1000 year event. Since it failed, it was obviously a 1 in 2000 year event.
     
    I'm surprised they didn't just say it was a 1 in 1,001 year event.

    Supposedly, the Fukushima nuclear power plant was designed for a 1,000 year Tsunami, but the Tohoku Earthquake and Tusnami was a 10,000 event. I'm beginning to think that this 1 in xxxx number of years stuff is just what we used to call "guessing". As Steve pointed out in a recent thread, accurate and comprehensive weather statistics are really a 20th century invention, so perhaps it's not surprising that predictions based on that narrow set of data are sometimes inaccurate.

    I believe that NASA said of the Space Shuttle, when it was newly introduced, that the probability of a catastrophic failure would be 1 in 1,000. As it happened, the program had a catastrophic failure on the 24th flight, and had two catastrophic failures over a total of 135 flights.

    , @Jack Highlands
    To paraphrase The Greatest: 'I don't know what the existence of The New Yorker means, but if they're agin' it, I'm for it.'
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  5. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer
    @anon
    I mostly can't read it anymore, but the New Yorker is against dams.

    http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/one-of-africas-biggest-dams-is-falling-apart

    And dams don't make money.


    In 2014, researchers at Oxford University reviewed the financial performance of two hundred and forty-five dams and concluded that the “construction costs of large dams are too high to yield a positive return.”
     

    Kariba’s collapse, like Mosul’s, would constitute an epochal event in the history of energy development—the dam industry’s Chernobyl.
     
    Sounds more like a wish than a fear. But the dam industry's Chernobyl has already happened: Banqiao and Shimantan Dams -- 171,000 fatalities.

    Extreme rainfall, beyond the planned design capability of the dam, dumped on China by Typhoon Nina. 11 million people lost their homes. Dam would later be rebuilt between 1986 and 1993. The People's Daily has maintained that the dam was designed to survive a once-in-1000-years flood (300 mm of rainfall per day) but a once-in-2000-years flood occurred in August 1975
     
    But his prior article got my attention:

    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/02/a-bigger-problem-than-isis

    Iraq has 'act of god' problems.


    If the dam ruptured, it would likely cause a catastrophe of Biblical proportions, loosing a wave as high as a hundred feet that would roll down the Tigris, swallowing everything in its path for more than a hundred miles. Large parts of Mosul would be submerged in less than three hours.
     
    I have to hand it to the Chinese. Hell, it was engineered for a 1 in 1000 year event. Since it failed, it was obviously a 1 in 2000 year event.

    However, the more interesting thing is that none of these was *that* much of a surprise. They were all disasters *waiting to happen*. The old Who/Whom. They build them to store water and they are going to do it ... flood control is a secondary benefit, until it doesn't work and it becomes a problem.

    Anti-dam propaganda has been around for a while. The elites have been against dams as part of a broader anti-industry and anti-manufacturing trend. Environmental concerns are cited for the opposition to dams, and dams obviously have major environmental impacts, but that’s the not the sole or chief concern.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Glen Canyon might have been the first big battle over a dam, in the early 1960s. The environmentalists lost that one, but they one the next one over damming the central Grand Canyon.

    I was a radical environmentalist for a few months around 1972 and I can remember reading an anthology of environmental tracts. One article in it may have been from John McPhee's 1971 book about David Brower of the Sierra Club, "Encounters with the Archdruid," about going down the Colorado River on a raft trip with Brower and his archenemy Floyd Dominy, the dam-building bureaucrat who scoffs at the environmentalists who worship trees.

    Dominy died recently at age 100:

    http://www.hcn.org/hcn/wotr/floyd-dominy-the-colossus-of-dams-dies-at-100

    Actually, the application of the term "Archdruid" to Brower came from a real estate developer on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, where the influential Hilton Head golf course was opened in 1968.

    To build the Hilton Head golf course, they had to tear out a lot of magnificent trees. But on the other hand, the Hilton Head golf course, where the Heritage tournament is played the week after The Masters, made a lot of people aware of the magnificent trees of the South Carolina lowlands. They say you can't see the forest because of the trees, but, actually, it's hard to see the trees because of the forest. Cutting down trees for fairways allowed people to notice the remaining trees.

    Downstream of Glen Canyon is the Boulder/Hoover Dam that Congress approved in 1928. In the Wikipedia article, I don't see any accounts of environmentalist objects, although there no doubt were some, but people probably didn't have a Sapir-Whorf category in which to recognize and remember them back then.

    On the other hand, there's a diminishing marginal returns aspect to dam building: Boulder/Hoover Dam and Lake Mead were a big success. That's why they have so many bright lights on the Las Vegas Strip: they have cheap electricity from Hoover Dam.

    So they did it again at Glen Canyon / Lake Powell. But if that site were better than Hoover Dam, they would have built Hoover Dam there first. So there was a bigger fight over Glen Canyon than over Hoover.

    Vastly more people have seen what's left of Glen Canyon due to it now being accessible by motorboat than ever saw it before the dam was built via raft or canoe. Motorboats are kind of declasse while non-motor-powered vessels are elite.

    If I make up a list of famous people I've heard of who went down the Colorado River on boats before the late 1960s, it's a list of Legends of the West: John Wesley Powell in 1869, Barry Goldwater in 1940, and David Brower in 1964.

    As Ali G would say: Respect.

    , @AndrewR
    What on earth are you talking about? Seriously, I have no idea. I strongly think you are trolling.
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  6. eah says:

    Impressive.

    I guess the anti-cavitation discoveries/work were done for/at Glen Canyon long after the Oroville spillway was designed and constructed — but per a link I posted earlier, inspectors visited Oroville Dam 14 times since 2008 — and probably many more times since the anti-cavitation work at GC in the 1980s — were any modifications to the Oroville spillway ever recommended or carried out? — I presume a kind of cavitation caused or contributed to the spillway failure at Oroville.

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  7. anon says: • Disclaimer
    @anon
    I mostly can't read it anymore, but the New Yorker is against dams.

    http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/one-of-africas-biggest-dams-is-falling-apart

    And dams don't make money.


    In 2014, researchers at Oxford University reviewed the financial performance of two hundred and forty-five dams and concluded that the “construction costs of large dams are too high to yield a positive return.”
     

    Kariba’s collapse, like Mosul’s, would constitute an epochal event in the history of energy development—the dam industry’s Chernobyl.
     
    Sounds more like a wish than a fear. But the dam industry's Chernobyl has already happened: Banqiao and Shimantan Dams -- 171,000 fatalities.

    Extreme rainfall, beyond the planned design capability of the dam, dumped on China by Typhoon Nina. 11 million people lost their homes. Dam would later be rebuilt between 1986 and 1993. The People's Daily has maintained that the dam was designed to survive a once-in-1000-years flood (300 mm of rainfall per day) but a once-in-2000-years flood occurred in August 1975
     
    But his prior article got my attention:

    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/02/a-bigger-problem-than-isis

    Iraq has 'act of god' problems.


    If the dam ruptured, it would likely cause a catastrophe of Biblical proportions, loosing a wave as high as a hundred feet that would roll down the Tigris, swallowing everything in its path for more than a hundred miles. Large parts of Mosul would be submerged in less than three hours.
     
    I have to hand it to the Chinese. Hell, it was engineered for a 1 in 1000 year event. Since it failed, it was obviously a 1 in 2000 year event.

    However, the more interesting thing is that none of these was *that* much of a surprise. They were all disasters *waiting to happen*. The old Who/Whom. They build them to store water and they are going to do it ... flood control is a secondary benefit, until it doesn't work and it becomes a problem.

    As far as hydro being a bad investment, BEP disagrees.

    https://bep.brookfield.com/~/media/Files/B/Brookfield-BEP-IR/events-and-presentations/bep-fact-sheet.pdf

    A Canadian MLP that invests in renewable infrastructure, primarily hydro.

    Read More
    • Replies: @JohnnyGeo
    Maybe hydro is one of those things that are profitable once you take subsidies into account? So overall it's not profitable, but if the government is bearing part of the costs then your investment can still pay off.
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  8. In the movie “Challenge at Glen Canyon”, the narrator Phil Riesen seems to be the Congressman-broadcaster

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Riesen

    The background music of Part 3 is not listed in the credits. Possibly it comes from G. F. Handel’s

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_Music

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    The narrator sounds kind of like the old NFL Films narrator.
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  9. G Pinfold says:

    I can’t help looking at the previous post and thinking that Zuckerberg could have spent pocket change keeping California’s dams in good order. Think global, act local – they used to say.

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  10. anon says: • Disclaimer

    Here is the ‘Oxford Research Study’ criticizing the economics of dams.

    https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers2.cfm?abstract_id=2406852

    There is a great map showing cost/time over runs by geographical region. North America, not surprisingly, comes in about like you would expect. The best in the world and around 20%.

    Some of their arguments are specious. They seem obsessed with inflation. However, hydro electricity isn’t immune from inflation, and there is a natural hedge. Cost is up but the benefits go up also.

    The largest projects in the 3rd world financed by the World Bank are not investments driven by economics. They are jobs programs, not investments. And maybe those shouldn’t be done. Given that they are only ‘investments’ in the weakest sense of the term … like … ‘I’m going to invest in myself’ and buy a lot of stuff. Or breast implants. So sure, there is a lot of cognitive bias in all this.

    I just glanced at it, but Brookfield seem to buy completed projects. In the US (they bought some from Alcoa).

    Hydro is a no brainer for the best sites. The Columbia River? Since it produces over 40% of US hydro, obviously it is a great deal.

    The real argument is that the projects aren’t going to be done on time and are going to cost twice as much — so they are money losers. PLUS … there is all this environmental damage and social costs of flooding the poor locals out of their homes.

    There is some merit to this line of reasoning if you think of the Telephone land line systems. The vast majority of the world had problems implementing them efficiently. It would take years to get a phone installed. &c. But the massive infrastructure buildout never needed to get done because of cellular.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Hydro is a no brainer for the best sites. The Columbia River? Since it produces over 40% of US hydro, obviously it is a great deal.

    Especially since all the aluminum for military aircraft that Columbia River hydropower produced was crucial to winning WWII and the Cold War.

    , @Steve Sailer
    Anybody know anything about Ethiopia's huge dam being built on the Blue Nile?

    Dams can also be strategic weapons. Ethiopia will have a chokehold on Sudan and Egypt, the way Turkey has a chokehold on Syria and Iraq via Euphrates River dams.

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  11. Was diversity employed? Did any black women help? If so,call Hollywood. “Its hopeless,its gonna blow!God help us!” “LaQueesha,what is it,you haven’t said a word.?” “What about…vertical flashboards…if we could raise the top of the dam…” “If it please Allah,it just might work!!”

    Read More
    • LOL: AndrewR, Buffalo Joe
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  12. CA-DWR tweeted a picture of the main spillway dated 15th February, which shows that the spillway’s not retreated since the 13th. The breach in the walls (and start of the cascade into the hole) is just downhill from the two small trees below the pylons, level with a larger clump of small trees.

    But if you look at the spillway during the downtime when the holes in the spillway were being checked out (and the emergency spillway was creating its own holes), you can see it’s gone back a lot since then – basically back to where the hillside and the spillway steepens. Here’s a CA-DWR pic from February 8, when the walls on both sides were still intact.

    I see there are jets of water coming from the side of the spillway, which I gather are aeration devices which help prevent cavitation damage. The water/air supply must be under the sides, because it stops on the right hand side where the intact side wall has been undermined.

    Read More
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  13. eah says:

    OT

    I don’t understand why Trump has blunted the wave of anti-establishmentarianism that carried him to the White House — he’s done this by making some very bad appointments (eg Haley, among others) — now he nominates this guy Acosta, who was involved in the Epstein case/plea deal.

    Read More
    • Replies: @AndrewR
    I don't understand why you and millions of others projected so many of your own desires, motivations and values onto such a foolish and disgusting person. It's not like Trump was an obscure figure before June 2015.
    , @snorlax
    I think Kaus is implying this might be crazy like a fox, as it'll be tough to talk about Epstein without mentioning the Clinton connection.
    , @Jack Hanson
    You saw that press conference yesterday and that's what you took away from it?

    LMBO its doom o clock forever with some of you people.
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  14. @anon
    Here is the 'Oxford Research Study' criticizing the economics of dams.

    https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers2.cfm?abstract_id=2406852

    There is a great map showing cost/time over runs by geographical region. North America, not surprisingly, comes in about like you would expect. The best in the world and around 20%.

    Some of their arguments are specious. They seem obsessed with inflation. However, hydro electricity isn't immune from inflation, and there is a natural hedge. Cost is up but the benefits go up also.

    The largest projects in the 3rd world financed by the World Bank are not investments driven by economics. They are jobs programs, not investments. And maybe those shouldn't be done. Given that they are only 'investments' in the weakest sense of the term ... like ... 'I'm going to invest in myself' and buy a lot of stuff. Or breast implants. So sure, there is a lot of cognitive bias in all this.

    I just glanced at it, but Brookfield seem to buy completed projects. In the US (they bought some from Alcoa).

    Hydro is a no brainer for the best sites. The Columbia River? Since it produces over 40% of US hydro, obviously it is a great deal.

    The real argument is that the projects aren't going to be done on time and are going to cost twice as much -- so they are money losers. PLUS ... there is all this environmental damage and social costs of flooding the poor locals out of their homes.

    There is some merit to this line of reasoning if you think of the Telephone land line systems. The vast majority of the world had problems implementing them efficiently. It would take years to get a phone installed. &c. But the massive infrastructure buildout never needed to get done because of cellular.

    Hydro is a no brainer for the best sites. The Columbia River? Since it produces over 40% of US hydro, obviously it is a great deal.

    Especially since all the aluminum for military aircraft that Columbia River hydropower produced was crucial to winning WWII and the Cold War.

    Read More
    • Replies: @EriK
    Roll On Columbia
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBQG7crRiNg
    , @Buffalo Joe
    Steve, And the Niagara Power Vista on the American side and Canadian Hydro plant on Canada's side of the Falls, both of which redirect river water through tunnels past the Falls and then the water drops through sluiceways to turn the turbines. No actual dams involved. I wish you could expand on the term :Flash Boards" , never heard about them before. At Oroville the top of the containment area is much longer than the Glen Canyon Dam which spans the distance between two rock face canyon walls.
    , @Faraday's Bobcat
    I think I read somewhere that the government paid Woody Guthrie to write this song...

    Now from Washington and Oregon you can hear them factories hum,
    Making chrome and making manganese and light aluminum.
    Now the roar of the Flying Fortress to fight for Uncle Sam,
    That King Columbia river and the great Grand Coulee dam.


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gytISWiYYw
    , @Whitehall
    Columbia River hydroelectricity and cooling water were also critical for America's plutonium works at Hanford. Access were to these were key factors in site selection during the Manhattan Project, along with easy rail access to the transcontinental rail service at nearby Pasco.

    Construction of the Grand Coolee Dam was accelerated to support demand.

    Interesting that the dam is not on the Grand Coolee, but pumps water from the Columbia over the ridge to flow down the Grand Coolee instead.
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  15. @anon
    Here is the 'Oxford Research Study' criticizing the economics of dams.

    https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers2.cfm?abstract_id=2406852

    There is a great map showing cost/time over runs by geographical region. North America, not surprisingly, comes in about like you would expect. The best in the world and around 20%.

    Some of their arguments are specious. They seem obsessed with inflation. However, hydro electricity isn't immune from inflation, and there is a natural hedge. Cost is up but the benefits go up also.

    The largest projects in the 3rd world financed by the World Bank are not investments driven by economics. They are jobs programs, not investments. And maybe those shouldn't be done. Given that they are only 'investments' in the weakest sense of the term ... like ... 'I'm going to invest in myself' and buy a lot of stuff. Or breast implants. So sure, there is a lot of cognitive bias in all this.

    I just glanced at it, but Brookfield seem to buy completed projects. In the US (they bought some from Alcoa).

    Hydro is a no brainer for the best sites. The Columbia River? Since it produces over 40% of US hydro, obviously it is a great deal.

    The real argument is that the projects aren't going to be done on time and are going to cost twice as much -- so they are money losers. PLUS ... there is all this environmental damage and social costs of flooding the poor locals out of their homes.

    There is some merit to this line of reasoning if you think of the Telephone land line systems. The vast majority of the world had problems implementing them efficiently. It would take years to get a phone installed. &c. But the massive infrastructure buildout never needed to get done because of cellular.

    Anybody know anything about Ethiopia’s huge dam being built on the Blue Nile?

    Dams can also be strategic weapons. Ethiopia will have a chokehold on Sudan and Egypt, the way Turkey has a chokehold on Syria and Iraq via Euphrates River dams.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Jack Highlands
    Nice tie-in with another Saileresque theme: watershed divides make the best borders. In a true 'Greater Mesopotamia' this could not happen. One reason Switzerland is great - low vulnerability except to the NE.
    , @Whoever

    Dams can also be strategic weapons.
     
    China seems to be developing such a weapon against India.
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  16. @Mark Spahn (West Seneca, NY)
    In the movie "Challenge at Glen Canyon", the narrator Phil Riesen seems to be the Congressman-broadcaster
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Riesen
    The background music of Part 3 is not listed in the credits. Possibly it comes from G. F. Handel's
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_Music

    The narrator sounds kind of like the old NFL Films narrator.

    Read More
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  17. @Anonymous
    Anti-dam propaganda has been around for a while. The elites have been against dams as part of a broader anti-industry and anti-manufacturing trend. Environmental concerns are cited for the opposition to dams, and dams obviously have major environmental impacts, but that's the not the sole or chief concern.

    Glen Canyon might have been the first big battle over a dam, in the early 1960s. The environmentalists lost that one, but they one the next one over damming the central Grand Canyon.

    I was a radical environmentalist for a few months around 1972 and I can remember reading an anthology of environmental tracts. One article in it may have been from John McPhee’s 1971 book about David Brower of the Sierra Club, “Encounters with the Archdruid,” about going down the Colorado River on a raft trip with Brower and his archenemy Floyd Dominy, the dam-building bureaucrat who scoffs at the environmentalists who worship trees.

    Dominy died recently at age 100:

    http://www.hcn.org/hcn/wotr/floyd-dominy-the-colossus-of-dams-dies-at-100

    Actually, the application of the term “Archdruid” to Brower came from a real estate developer on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, where the influential Hilton Head golf course was opened in 1968.

    To build the Hilton Head golf course, they had to tear out a lot of magnificent trees. But on the other hand, the Hilton Head golf course, where the Heritage tournament is played the week after The Masters, made a lot of people aware of the magnificent trees of the South Carolina lowlands. They say you can’t see the forest because of the trees, but, actually, it’s hard to see the trees because of the forest. Cutting down trees for fairways allowed people to notice the remaining trees.

    Downstream of Glen Canyon is the Boulder/Hoover Dam that Congress approved in 1928. In the Wikipedia article, I don’t see any accounts of environmentalist objects, although there no doubt were some, but people probably didn’t have a Sapir-Whorf category in which to recognize and remember them back then.

    On the other hand, there’s a diminishing marginal returns aspect to dam building: Boulder/Hoover Dam and Lake Mead were a big success. That’s why they have so many bright lights on the Las Vegas Strip: they have cheap electricity from Hoover Dam.

    So they did it again at Glen Canyon / Lake Powell. But if that site were better than Hoover Dam, they would have built Hoover Dam there first. So there was a bigger fight over Glen Canyon than over Hoover.

    Vastly more people have seen what’s left of Glen Canyon due to it now being accessible by motorboat than ever saw it before the dam was built via raft or canoe. Motorboats are kind of declasse while non-motor-powered vessels are elite.

    If I make up a list of famous people I’ve heard of who went down the Colorado River on boats before the late 1960s, it’s a list of Legends of the West: John Wesley Powell in 1869, Barry Goldwater in 1940, and David Brower in 1964.

    As Ali G would say: Respect.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Buck Turgidson
    The first big national-level battle and debate over a dam was at Echo Park in Dinosaur National Monument around 1950. There was an anti-dam campaign, including an article from well-known Western historian Bernard DeVoto arguing vs. the dam. The dam was not built. Glen Canyon was part of the Colorado River Storage Project (1956) in which the upper basin states -- CO, NM, UT, and WY -- all got their bite at the Colorado River water apple. "Reclamation" as it is known today out West had plans for additional dams downstream of Glen Canyon, in Marble Canyon. National hue and cry, led by David Brower and the Sierra Club, stopped those plans. Marble Canyon is where the bridge crosses the Colorado just downstream of Lees Ferry.
    , @(((Owen)))

    If I make up a list of famous people I’ve heard of who went down the Colorado River on boats before the late 1960s, it’s a list of Legends of the West: John Wesley Powell in 1869, Barry Goldwater in 1940, and David Brower in 1964.
     
    Writer Ed Abbey and movie star Katie Lee. The men that created tourism in Moab including Ken Slight. The founders of the western Uranium industry, I believe including Charlie Steen.

    Certainly Fathers Dominguez and Escalante, the first white men to see the southwest traveled on the Colorado river in Glen Canyon. There's an historical site with plaques 400' under the dead waters of Glen Canyon reservoir.

    ----

    They were planning at least three dams in the Grand Canyon and you can still see the scarring from their testing and preliminary engineering works. They would have destroyed it entirely if they had the chance.

    , @res

    Glen Canyon might have been the first big battle over a dam, in the early 1960s.
     
    What about Hetch Hetchy in the early 1900s?

    https://www.archives.gov/legislative/features/hetch-hetchy
    , @psmith
    Ed Abbey floated most of it in the fifties, maybe the whole thing. I first heard about Glen Canyon from his books. It was for him what Hetch Hetchy was for John Muir, roughly speaking.

    (I expect Abbey to be picked up by the Weird Right and summarily disavowed by what remains of the environmentalist left any day now--he was pretty unambiguously opposed to illegal immigration, on grounds that we would all recognize.).
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  18. @TangoMan
    After this is all done I hope someone figures out the foregone power generation and dollar value of the power that was lost by releasing the water down the spillway.

    I imagine that’s what the Department of Water Resources dam management was worried about during the rains from 2/2 to 2/6 as they maintained the water level at 850 feet rather than flush a lot of valuable water down the river to get ready for the second half of the long set of storms from 2/7 to 2/10.

    In general, our concepts of things like 100 Year Floods and 1000 Year Floods are based on what we have measurements for, which is usually roughly the 20th Century. But it’s quite possible that the 20th Century wasn’t all that representative. It’s quite possible the 21st Century will be quite a bit more extreme in one way or another.

    For example, one commenter has pointed out that Los Angeles, which averaged 15 inches of rain per year in the 20th Century, received 66 inches in 1861-62.

    Here’s another Old Weird California weather fact. Richard Henry Dana visited California on a sailing ship out of Boston in the mid-1830s and came back to write an 1840 bestseller about it, Two Years Before the Mast. One of the themes of his book was the trouble caused by a routine cold wind out of the east which blew his ship almost to Hawaii. It had a name and was considered by Californios to be a common pest. But we don’t have it today. We have a warm wind out of the southeast, the notorious Santa Ana made famous by Raymond Chandler:

    “There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.”

    Here’s an insane tribute to the Santa Ana winds by the Frankie Valli/Pee Wee Herman narrator of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend:”

    But, apparently, there used to be a cold wind from the East in Southern California.

    Yet, when Dana revisited California after the Civil War, he mentioned that the cold wind had stopped.

    That’s weird.

    But maybe the future will be weird.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Formerly CARealist
    I wonder how the CA Indians would cope with the rivers in flood years. They would never be able to establish permanent residence anywhere because the rivers were always so unpredictable. Some years there'd be a huge lake inland and some years it would be totally dry for way too long. I suppose that's part of why they never really got their acts together and put up such feeble resistance to the Spanish.

    I like dams and reservoirs. Liberals like the fresh water and flood control and power and recreation they provide, but you'll never catch them admitting it.
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  19. @Steve Sailer
    Glen Canyon might have been the first big battle over a dam, in the early 1960s. The environmentalists lost that one, but they one the next one over damming the central Grand Canyon.

    I was a radical environmentalist for a few months around 1972 and I can remember reading an anthology of environmental tracts. One article in it may have been from John McPhee's 1971 book about David Brower of the Sierra Club, "Encounters with the Archdruid," about going down the Colorado River on a raft trip with Brower and his archenemy Floyd Dominy, the dam-building bureaucrat who scoffs at the environmentalists who worship trees.

    Dominy died recently at age 100:

    http://www.hcn.org/hcn/wotr/floyd-dominy-the-colossus-of-dams-dies-at-100

    Actually, the application of the term "Archdruid" to Brower came from a real estate developer on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, where the influential Hilton Head golf course was opened in 1968.

    To build the Hilton Head golf course, they had to tear out a lot of magnificent trees. But on the other hand, the Hilton Head golf course, where the Heritage tournament is played the week after The Masters, made a lot of people aware of the magnificent trees of the South Carolina lowlands. They say you can't see the forest because of the trees, but, actually, it's hard to see the trees because of the forest. Cutting down trees for fairways allowed people to notice the remaining trees.

    Downstream of Glen Canyon is the Boulder/Hoover Dam that Congress approved in 1928. In the Wikipedia article, I don't see any accounts of environmentalist objects, although there no doubt were some, but people probably didn't have a Sapir-Whorf category in which to recognize and remember them back then.

    On the other hand, there's a diminishing marginal returns aspect to dam building: Boulder/Hoover Dam and Lake Mead were a big success. That's why they have so many bright lights on the Las Vegas Strip: they have cheap electricity from Hoover Dam.

    So they did it again at Glen Canyon / Lake Powell. But if that site were better than Hoover Dam, they would have built Hoover Dam there first. So there was a bigger fight over Glen Canyon than over Hoover.

    Vastly more people have seen what's left of Glen Canyon due to it now being accessible by motorboat than ever saw it before the dam was built via raft or canoe. Motorboats are kind of declasse while non-motor-powered vessels are elite.

    If I make up a list of famous people I've heard of who went down the Colorado River on boats before the late 1960s, it's a list of Legends of the West: John Wesley Powell in 1869, Barry Goldwater in 1940, and David Brower in 1964.

    As Ali G would say: Respect.

    The first big national-level battle and debate over a dam was at Echo Park in Dinosaur National Monument around 1950. There was an anti-dam campaign, including an article from well-known Western historian Bernard DeVoto arguing vs. the dam. The dam was not built. Glen Canyon was part of the Colorado River Storage Project (1956) in which the upper basin states — CO, NM, UT, and WY — all got their bite at the Colorado River water apple. “Reclamation” as it is known today out West had plans for additional dams downstream of Glen Canyon, in Marble Canyon. National hue and cry, led by David Brower and the Sierra Club, stopped those plans. Marble Canyon is where the bridge crosses the Colorado just downstream of Lees Ferry.

    Read More
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  20. Anonym says:
    @TangoMan
    After this is all done I hope someone figures out the foregone power generation and dollar value of the power that was lost by releasing the water down the spillway.

    After this is all done I hope someone figures out the foregone power generation and dollar value of the power that was lost by releasing the water down the spillway.

    As a natural tightwad, this is something that bothers me too.

    I worked out earlier that the energy in the Oroville dam was 5E15 Joules. Dropping 37 of 770 feet means that at least (37/770) * 5 E15 Joules was expended. In fact, more than this because there is a lot more water in the top 37 feet than the rest of the dam, foot for foot.

    To convert Joules to kWh, multiply by 2.78E-7. So, there is (37/770) * 5E15 * 2.78E-7 = 6.8E7 kWh wasted, or at $0.18/kWh, $12M. Is this right? Only if there was no influx of water into the dam right now. But there is a crisis on due to rainfall, so obviously there is a lot of water flowing in. The total dam’s worth of energy is at least $250M when full.

    If we are putting out 100k ft^3/s, then that is the same as 2831m^3/s.

    GPE
    = mgh
    = 2831000 * 9.8 * 235
    =6.5 E9 Joules

    Note that Joules per second is Watts, so the fact that we are expending 6.5E9 Joules per second is the same as saying that we are expending 6.5E9 Watts, or 6.5E6 kW, or 6.5 E3 MW, or 6.5GW. Does this make sense? Total installed capacity is 819MW, or 0.819GW. When we consider that the turbines can only use 13000 cubic feet per second, then one would expect that if we scaled it up by 100/13 then using 100k cubic feet per second would generate 6.3GW. So my math looks correct.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oroville_Dam#Hydroelectricity

    Convert Joules to kWh, multiply by 2.78E-7, so 6.5 E9 joules * 2.78E-7 = 1807kWh. Retail in cali is 18c/kWh.

    https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.cfm?t=epmt_5_6_a

    So we have $325/second being pissed away in power. That’s $325 * 3600/hour or $1.17M/hour. $28M per day.

    I wonder how much it costs to double or triple the dam’s capacity, and maintain that.

    https://www.renewablesfirst.co.uk/hydropower/hydropower-learning-centre/how-much-do-hydropower-systems-cost-to-build/

    Ok, so it costs $4k per kW installed, USD.

    https://www.quora.com/How-much-does-it-cost-to-make-1MW-hydroelectric-plant

    Another estimate is $3-6M per Megawatt. Which is in the ballpark. So it would cost roughly $3 billion to build the same capacity as it already has, let alone the capacity to handle this once in decades deluge. Considering this spillway has been used what, once? I think they got the capacity fairly right. It depends on how long the crisis lasts. It would have to last 125 days to match even the existing spend on generation capacity. Seems unlikely. And the plant won’t get the retail value of the electricity. Maybe it would need to have a crisis lasting 250 days.

    One can say that they should have used more water for power earlier, but it’s a balance – the higher you let the dam go, the more power you can generate per liter, but you will occasionally have to waste some over the spillway.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Buffalo Joe
    Anonym, Thank you for the complex math, but you assume that they always run the turbines. Electricity is fed into a grid as needed. There is no storage of electricity except in batteries. Steam plants often have multiple turbines but one boiler, divert the steam to one, or two or three or don't make steam.
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  21. bomag says:

    Strikingly, as Part 2 below recounts, one way they kept the dam from overflowing was by temporarily raising the height of the dam by installing vertical flashboards in a two day long effort. Could something similar be done along Oroville’s 1730 foot emergency spillway? How long would it take to add, say, 8 feet to the height of the emergency spillway?

    There is a lot more room for error in doing this to a concrete dam versus an earth filled. The Vajont dam in Italy was estimated to have survived an 850 feet overtopping flow; astounding. Earth filled dams don’t lend themselves as readily to higher levels; soak area and all that; so this would be a very last ditch effort.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Whitehall
    As a general rule of thumb, an earthen or rock-filled dam is 10X as risky as a concrete dam, but a lot cheaper to build and has more suitable sites still available for technical and economic reasons.
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  22. AndrewR says:
    @TangoMan
    After this is all done I hope someone figures out the foregone power generation and dollar value of the power that was lost by releasing the water down the spillway.

    I have no idea why this question even occurred to you. Surely it’s many orders of magnitude less than the economic costs that would result from thirty feet of the reservoir blasting down the river at once, to say nothing of other costs.

    Read More
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  23. AndrewR says:
    @Anonymous
    Anti-dam propaganda has been around for a while. The elites have been against dams as part of a broader anti-industry and anti-manufacturing trend. Environmental concerns are cited for the opposition to dams, and dams obviously have major environmental impacts, but that's the not the sole or chief concern.

    What on earth are you talking about? Seriously, I have no idea. I strongly think you are trolling.

    Read More
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  24. EriK says:
    @Steve Sailer
    Hydro is a no brainer for the best sites. The Columbia River? Since it produces over 40% of US hydro, obviously it is a great deal.

    Especially since all the aluminum for military aircraft that Columbia River hydropower produced was crucial to winning WWII and the Cold War.

    Roll On Columbia

    Read More
    • Replies: @donut
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0W1CovT7PA
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  25. AndrewR says:
    @eah
    OT

    I don't understand why Trump has blunted the wave of anti-establishmentarianism that carried him to the White House -- he's done this by making some very bad appointments (eg Haley, among others) -- now he nominates this guy Acosta, who was involved in the Epstein case/plea deal.

    https://twitter.com/kausmickey/status/832371421292552192

    I don’t understand why you and millions of others projected so many of your own desires, motivations and values onto such a foolish and disgusting person. It’s not like Trump was an obscure figure before June 2015.

    Read More
    • Replies: @bomag

    I don’t understand why you and millions of others projected so many of your own desires, motivations and values onto such a... person.
     
    Hey, man; he's by far the closest thing to a leader we need by a factor of ten in the last 25 years.
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  26. Anonym says:

    Note that the economics of a dam in terms of power generation will be roughly the height at which you can dam things up to easily, wrt an outlet below, multiplied by the average annual flow rate of the river. The volume of the reservoir is only useful to a point to be able to average out the flow rate to provide consistent generation, effectively acting as a big storage battery. Beyond that it is additional danger and, I guess, wasted land although it does have recreational use.

    For example, 3 Gorges Dam in china has the largest generational capacity at 22.5GW. At 181m high and 39.3km^3 capacity, the energy of the full reservoir is roughly 8.3Mt of TNT.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Gorges_Dam

    The largest reservoir dam, the Kariba Dam, has only 1.6GW generational capacity, but has 180km^3 at a height of 128m giving it a stored energy of 27Mt of TNT. I’d rather own the 3 Gorges Dam, unless there was a very wealthy country to extort in the valley below.

    The largest flowing rivers are the Amazon, then the Congo, then the Yangtze. The 3 Gorges is the Yangtze. Obviously people would be eyeing off the Amazon and the Congo for potential. The Granda Inga Dam on the Congo would generate 39GW.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inga_dams

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonym
    Note as to scale - the 3 Gorges Dam produces 87 TWh. That would power Pakistan, but only 1.5% of China's current electricity consumption.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_electricity_consumption

    These numbers are huge. Note that China is the world's biggest electricity consumer, bigger than the USA.

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  27. @Steve Sailer
    Glen Canyon might have been the first big battle over a dam, in the early 1960s. The environmentalists lost that one, but they one the next one over damming the central Grand Canyon.

    I was a radical environmentalist for a few months around 1972 and I can remember reading an anthology of environmental tracts. One article in it may have been from John McPhee's 1971 book about David Brower of the Sierra Club, "Encounters with the Archdruid," about going down the Colorado River on a raft trip with Brower and his archenemy Floyd Dominy, the dam-building bureaucrat who scoffs at the environmentalists who worship trees.

    Dominy died recently at age 100:

    http://www.hcn.org/hcn/wotr/floyd-dominy-the-colossus-of-dams-dies-at-100

    Actually, the application of the term "Archdruid" to Brower came from a real estate developer on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, where the influential Hilton Head golf course was opened in 1968.

    To build the Hilton Head golf course, they had to tear out a lot of magnificent trees. But on the other hand, the Hilton Head golf course, where the Heritage tournament is played the week after The Masters, made a lot of people aware of the magnificent trees of the South Carolina lowlands. They say you can't see the forest because of the trees, but, actually, it's hard to see the trees because of the forest. Cutting down trees for fairways allowed people to notice the remaining trees.

    Downstream of Glen Canyon is the Boulder/Hoover Dam that Congress approved in 1928. In the Wikipedia article, I don't see any accounts of environmentalist objects, although there no doubt were some, but people probably didn't have a Sapir-Whorf category in which to recognize and remember them back then.

    On the other hand, there's a diminishing marginal returns aspect to dam building: Boulder/Hoover Dam and Lake Mead were a big success. That's why they have so many bright lights on the Las Vegas Strip: they have cheap electricity from Hoover Dam.

    So they did it again at Glen Canyon / Lake Powell. But if that site were better than Hoover Dam, they would have built Hoover Dam there first. So there was a bigger fight over Glen Canyon than over Hoover.

    Vastly more people have seen what's left of Glen Canyon due to it now being accessible by motorboat than ever saw it before the dam was built via raft or canoe. Motorboats are kind of declasse while non-motor-powered vessels are elite.

    If I make up a list of famous people I've heard of who went down the Colorado River on boats before the late 1960s, it's a list of Legends of the West: John Wesley Powell in 1869, Barry Goldwater in 1940, and David Brower in 1964.

    As Ali G would say: Respect.

    If I make up a list of famous people I’ve heard of who went down the Colorado River on boats before the late 1960s, it’s a list of Legends of the West: John Wesley Powell in 1869, Barry Goldwater in 1940, and David Brower in 1964.

    Writer Ed Abbey and movie star Katie Lee. The men that created tourism in Moab including Ken Slight. The founders of the western Uranium industry, I believe including Charlie Steen.

    Certainly Fathers Dominguez and Escalante, the first white men to see the southwest traveled on the Colorado river in Glen Canyon. There’s an historical site with plaques 400′ under the dead waters of Glen Canyon reservoir.

    —-

    They were planning at least three dams in the Grand Canyon and you can still see the scarring from their testing and preliminary engineering works. They would have destroyed it entirely if they had the chance.

    Read More
    • Replies: @hark, hark...the snark
    I went on a Ken Sleight raft trip down the Colorado with some (extended) family members I think in 1961 when I was 14. Five day trip. All that's under Lake Powell now. (I'm not famous, though.)
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  28. Anonym says:
    @Anonym
    Note that the economics of a dam in terms of power generation will be roughly the height at which you can dam things up to easily, wrt an outlet below, multiplied by the average annual flow rate of the river. The volume of the reservoir is only useful to a point to be able to average out the flow rate to provide consistent generation, effectively acting as a big storage battery. Beyond that it is additional danger and, I guess, wasted land although it does have recreational use.

    For example, 3 Gorges Dam in china has the largest generational capacity at 22.5GW. At 181m high and 39.3km^3 capacity, the energy of the full reservoir is roughly 8.3Mt of TNT.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Gorges_Dam

    The largest reservoir dam, the Kariba Dam, has only 1.6GW generational capacity, but has 180km^3 at a height of 128m giving it a stored energy of 27Mt of TNT. I'd rather own the 3 Gorges Dam, unless there was a very wealthy country to extort in the valley below.

    The largest flowing rivers are the Amazon, then the Congo, then the Yangtze. The 3 Gorges is the Yangtze. Obviously people would be eyeing off the Amazon and the Congo for potential. The Granda Inga Dam on the Congo would generate 39GW.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inga_dams

    Note as to scale – the 3 Gorges Dam produces 87 TWh. That would power Pakistan, but only 1.5% of China’s current electricity consumption.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_electricity_consumption

    These numbers are huge. Note that China is the world’s biggest electricity consumer, bigger than the USA.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Buffalo Joe
    Anonym, when Obama ran for the office of president he promised he would shut down the coal industry and coal fired steam plants. He pretty much succeeded around here as the Dunkirk, NY, Somerset, NY and Tonawanda, NY coal fired steam plants are either shut down or on limited use. There is a plant just east of Cleveland that is currently being demolished. I am surprised that no enterprising Chinese businessman sought to disassemble the plant and ship the hard to produce steam drums, mud drums, high pressure pipes, induction fans, exhaust fans, coal pulverizing mills, turbines, generators and ship them to China. The structural steel is easily fabricated, the other machinery takes years to design and build.
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  29. snorlax says:
    @eah
    OT

    I don't understand why Trump has blunted the wave of anti-establishmentarianism that carried him to the White House -- he's done this by making some very bad appointments (eg Haley, among others) -- now he nominates this guy Acosta, who was involved in the Epstein case/plea deal.

    https://twitter.com/kausmickey/status/832371421292552192

    I think Kaus is implying this might be crazy like a fox, as it’ll be tough to talk about Epstein without mentioning the Clinton connection.

    Read More
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  30. dearieme says:

    “the dam industry’s Chernobyl”: Chernobyl wasn’t particularly deadly, was it? Except to the poor, brave souls who worked to stop it getting worse. WKPD: “During the accident, blast effects caused 2 deaths within the facility and later 29 firemen and employees died in the days-to-months afterward from acute radiation syndrome, with the potential for long-term cancers still being investigated.”

    Beyond that, it’s essentially guesswork. The lower the doses involved, the more doubtful the guesses become. It would, of course, be far better if it hadn’t happened, but a big dam failure could be far, far worse. It wouldn’t be a question of your life being perhaps, maybe, supposedly, shortened by a few weeks, it could involve the unambiguous deaths of people in the prime of life, and their children.

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  31. @Steve Sailer
    Hydro is a no brainer for the best sites. The Columbia River? Since it produces over 40% of US hydro, obviously it is a great deal.

    Especially since all the aluminum for military aircraft that Columbia River hydropower produced was crucial to winning WWII and the Cold War.

    Steve, And the Niagara Power Vista on the American side and Canadian Hydro plant on Canada’s side of the Falls, both of which redirect river water through tunnels past the Falls and then the water drops through sluiceways to turn the turbines. No actual dams involved. I wish you could expand on the term :Flash Boards” , never heard about them before. At Oroville the top of the containment area is much longer than the Glen Canyon Dam which spans the distance between two rock face canyon walls.

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  32. @eah
    OT

    I don't understand why Trump has blunted the wave of anti-establishmentarianism that carried him to the White House -- he's done this by making some very bad appointments (eg Haley, among others) -- now he nominates this guy Acosta, who was involved in the Epstein case/plea deal.

    https://twitter.com/kausmickey/status/832371421292552192

    You saw that press conference yesterday and that’s what you took away from it?

    LMBO its doom o clock forever with some of you people.

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    Give him some concrete reassurances
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  33. Mr. Anon says:
    @anon
    I mostly can't read it anymore, but the New Yorker is against dams.

    http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/one-of-africas-biggest-dams-is-falling-apart

    And dams don't make money.


    In 2014, researchers at Oxford University reviewed the financial performance of two hundred and forty-five dams and concluded that the “construction costs of large dams are too high to yield a positive return.”
     

    Kariba’s collapse, like Mosul’s, would constitute an epochal event in the history of energy development—the dam industry’s Chernobyl.
     
    Sounds more like a wish than a fear. But the dam industry's Chernobyl has already happened: Banqiao and Shimantan Dams -- 171,000 fatalities.

    Extreme rainfall, beyond the planned design capability of the dam, dumped on China by Typhoon Nina. 11 million people lost their homes. Dam would later be rebuilt between 1986 and 1993. The People's Daily has maintained that the dam was designed to survive a once-in-1000-years flood (300 mm of rainfall per day) but a once-in-2000-years flood occurred in August 1975
     
    But his prior article got my attention:

    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/02/a-bigger-problem-than-isis

    Iraq has 'act of god' problems.


    If the dam ruptured, it would likely cause a catastrophe of Biblical proportions, loosing a wave as high as a hundred feet that would roll down the Tigris, swallowing everything in its path for more than a hundred miles. Large parts of Mosul would be submerged in less than three hours.
     
    I have to hand it to the Chinese. Hell, it was engineered for a 1 in 1000 year event. Since it failed, it was obviously a 1 in 2000 year event.

    However, the more interesting thing is that none of these was *that* much of a surprise. They were all disasters *waiting to happen*. The old Who/Whom. They build them to store water and they are going to do it ... flood control is a secondary benefit, until it doesn't work and it becomes a problem.

    The Mosul Dam is failing. A breach would cause a colossal wave that could kill as many as a million and a half people.

    That would be a worse disaster for Iraq than even Madeleine Albright or George W. Bush.

    I have to hand it to the Chinese. Hell, it was engineered for a 1 in 1000 year event. Since it failed, it was obviously a 1 in 2000 year event.

    I’m surprised they didn’t just say it was a 1 in 1,001 year event.

    Supposedly, the Fukushima nuclear power plant was designed for a 1,000 year Tsunami, but the Tohoku Earthquake and Tusnami was a 10,000 event. I’m beginning to think that this 1 in xxxx number of years stuff is just what we used to call “guessing”. As Steve pointed out in a recent thread, accurate and comprehensive weather statistics are really a 20th century invention, so perhaps it’s not surprising that predictions based on that narrow set of data are sometimes inaccurate.

    I believe that NASA said of the Space Shuttle, when it was newly introduced, that the probability of a catastrophic failure would be 1 in 1,000. As it happened, the program had a catastrophic failure on the 24th flight, and had two catastrophic failures over a total of 135 flights.

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  34. @Steve Sailer
    I imagine that's what the Department of Water Resources dam management was worried about during the rains from 2/2 to 2/6 as they maintained the water level at 850 feet rather than flush a lot of valuable water down the river to get ready for the second half of the long set of storms from 2/7 to 2/10.

    In general, our concepts of things like 100 Year Floods and 1000 Year Floods are based on what we have measurements for, which is usually roughly the 20th Century. But it's quite possible that the 20th Century wasn't all that representative. It's quite possible the 21st Century will be quite a bit more extreme in one way or another.

    For example, one commenter has pointed out that Los Angeles, which averaged 15 inches of rain per year in the 20th Century, received 66 inches in 1861-62.

    Here's another Old Weird California weather fact. Richard Henry Dana visited California on a sailing ship out of Boston in the mid-1830s and came back to write an 1840 bestseller about it, Two Years Before the Mast. One of the themes of his book was the trouble caused by a routine cold wind out of the east which blew his ship almost to Hawaii. It had a name and was considered by Californios to be a common pest. But we don't have it today. We have a warm wind out of the southeast, the notorious Santa Ana made famous by Raymond Chandler:


    “There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.”
     
    Here's an insane tribute to the Santa Ana winds by the Frankie Valli/Pee Wee Herman narrator of "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend:"

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4qvpHZzZGI

    But, apparently, there used to be a cold wind from the East in Southern California.

    Yet, when Dana revisited California after the Civil War, he mentioned that the cold wind had stopped.

    That's weird.

    But maybe the future will be weird.

    I wonder how the CA Indians would cope with the rivers in flood years. They would never be able to establish permanent residence anywhere because the rivers were always so unpredictable. Some years there’d be a huge lake inland and some years it would be totally dry for way too long. I suppose that’s part of why they never really got their acts together and put up such feeble resistance to the Spanish.

    I like dams and reservoirs. Liberals like the fresh water and flood control and power and recreation they provide, but you’ll never catch them admitting it.

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  35. res says:
    @Steve Sailer
    Glen Canyon might have been the first big battle over a dam, in the early 1960s. The environmentalists lost that one, but they one the next one over damming the central Grand Canyon.

    I was a radical environmentalist for a few months around 1972 and I can remember reading an anthology of environmental tracts. One article in it may have been from John McPhee's 1971 book about David Brower of the Sierra Club, "Encounters with the Archdruid," about going down the Colorado River on a raft trip with Brower and his archenemy Floyd Dominy, the dam-building bureaucrat who scoffs at the environmentalists who worship trees.

    Dominy died recently at age 100:

    http://www.hcn.org/hcn/wotr/floyd-dominy-the-colossus-of-dams-dies-at-100

    Actually, the application of the term "Archdruid" to Brower came from a real estate developer on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, where the influential Hilton Head golf course was opened in 1968.

    To build the Hilton Head golf course, they had to tear out a lot of magnificent trees. But on the other hand, the Hilton Head golf course, where the Heritage tournament is played the week after The Masters, made a lot of people aware of the magnificent trees of the South Carolina lowlands. They say you can't see the forest because of the trees, but, actually, it's hard to see the trees because of the forest. Cutting down trees for fairways allowed people to notice the remaining trees.

    Downstream of Glen Canyon is the Boulder/Hoover Dam that Congress approved in 1928. In the Wikipedia article, I don't see any accounts of environmentalist objects, although there no doubt were some, but people probably didn't have a Sapir-Whorf category in which to recognize and remember them back then.

    On the other hand, there's a diminishing marginal returns aspect to dam building: Boulder/Hoover Dam and Lake Mead were a big success. That's why they have so many bright lights on the Las Vegas Strip: they have cheap electricity from Hoover Dam.

    So they did it again at Glen Canyon / Lake Powell. But if that site were better than Hoover Dam, they would have built Hoover Dam there first. So there was a bigger fight over Glen Canyon than over Hoover.

    Vastly more people have seen what's left of Glen Canyon due to it now being accessible by motorboat than ever saw it before the dam was built via raft or canoe. Motorboats are kind of declasse while non-motor-powered vessels are elite.

    If I make up a list of famous people I've heard of who went down the Colorado River on boats before the late 1960s, it's a list of Legends of the West: John Wesley Powell in 1869, Barry Goldwater in 1940, and David Brower in 1964.

    As Ali G would say: Respect.

    Glen Canyon might have been the first big battle over a dam, in the early 1960s.

    What about Hetch Hetchy in the early 1900s?

    https://www.archives.gov/legislative/features/hetch-hetchy

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  36. psmith says:
    @Steve Sailer
    Glen Canyon might have been the first big battle over a dam, in the early 1960s. The environmentalists lost that one, but they one the next one over damming the central Grand Canyon.

    I was a radical environmentalist for a few months around 1972 and I can remember reading an anthology of environmental tracts. One article in it may have been from John McPhee's 1971 book about David Brower of the Sierra Club, "Encounters with the Archdruid," about going down the Colorado River on a raft trip with Brower and his archenemy Floyd Dominy, the dam-building bureaucrat who scoffs at the environmentalists who worship trees.

    Dominy died recently at age 100:

    http://www.hcn.org/hcn/wotr/floyd-dominy-the-colossus-of-dams-dies-at-100

    Actually, the application of the term "Archdruid" to Brower came from a real estate developer on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, where the influential Hilton Head golf course was opened in 1968.

    To build the Hilton Head golf course, they had to tear out a lot of magnificent trees. But on the other hand, the Hilton Head golf course, where the Heritage tournament is played the week after The Masters, made a lot of people aware of the magnificent trees of the South Carolina lowlands. They say you can't see the forest because of the trees, but, actually, it's hard to see the trees because of the forest. Cutting down trees for fairways allowed people to notice the remaining trees.

    Downstream of Glen Canyon is the Boulder/Hoover Dam that Congress approved in 1928. In the Wikipedia article, I don't see any accounts of environmentalist objects, although there no doubt were some, but people probably didn't have a Sapir-Whorf category in which to recognize and remember them back then.

    On the other hand, there's a diminishing marginal returns aspect to dam building: Boulder/Hoover Dam and Lake Mead were a big success. That's why they have so many bright lights on the Las Vegas Strip: they have cheap electricity from Hoover Dam.

    So they did it again at Glen Canyon / Lake Powell. But if that site were better than Hoover Dam, they would have built Hoover Dam there first. So there was a bigger fight over Glen Canyon than over Hoover.

    Vastly more people have seen what's left of Glen Canyon due to it now being accessible by motorboat than ever saw it before the dam was built via raft or canoe. Motorboats are kind of declasse while non-motor-powered vessels are elite.

    If I make up a list of famous people I've heard of who went down the Colorado River on boats before the late 1960s, it's a list of Legends of the West: John Wesley Powell in 1869, Barry Goldwater in 1940, and David Brower in 1964.

    As Ali G would say: Respect.

    Ed Abbey floated most of it in the fifties, maybe the whole thing. I first heard about Glen Canyon from his books. It was for him what Hetch Hetchy was for John Muir, roughly speaking.

    (I expect Abbey to be picked up by the Weird Right and summarily disavowed by what remains of the environmentalist left any day now–he was pretty unambiguously opposed to illegal immigration, on grounds that we would all recognize.).

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    • Replies: @(((Owen)))
    Abbey wrote a log of his trip down the Glen Canyon just before the dam closed in Desert Solitare. The whole book is must reading if you love America.

    Ed Abbey was a real environmentalist. Not just a liberal that preferred clean water to dirty and wanted to leave some of our ancient forests standing, but a real hard green environmentalist.

    "It might be wise for us as American citizens to consider calling a halt to the mass influx of even more millions of hungry, ignorant, unskilled, and culturally-morally-genetically impoverished people. At least until we have brought our own affairs into order. Especially when these uninvited millions bring with them an alien mode of life which - let us be honest about this - is not appealing to the majority of Americans. Why not? Because we prefer democratic government, for one thing; because we still hope for an open, spacious, uncrowded, and beautiful--yes, beautiful!--society, for another. The alternative, in the squalor, cruelty, and corruption of Latin America, is plain for all to see."

    -"Immigration and Liberal Taboos" by Edward Abbey

    http://compassrosebooks.blogspot.com/2009/10/edward-abbey-on-immigration.html

    Boy howdy that essay is good. Sample:

    "Or if we must meddle, as we have always done, let us meddle for a change in a constructive way. Stop every campesino at our southern border, give him a handgun, a good rifle, and a case of ammunition, and send him home. He will know what to do with our gifts and good wishes. The people know who their enemies are."

    "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell."
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  37. Not a very diverse crew working on that!

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  38. JohnnyGeo says:
    @anon
    As far as hydro being a bad investment, BEP disagrees.

    https://bep.brookfield.com/~/media/Files/B/Brookfield-BEP-IR/events-and-presentations/bep-fact-sheet.pdf

    A Canadian MLP that invests in renewable infrastructure, primarily hydro.

    Maybe hydro is one of those things that are profitable once you take subsidies into account? So overall it’s not profitable, but if the government is bearing part of the costs then your investment can still pay off.

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  39. bomag says:
    @AndrewR
    I don't understand why you and millions of others projected so many of your own desires, motivations and values onto such a foolish and disgusting person. It's not like Trump was an obscure figure before June 2015.

    I don’t understand why you and millions of others projected so many of your own desires, motivations and values onto such a… person.

    Hey, man; he’s by far the closest thing to a leader we need by a factor of ten in the last 25 years.

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  40. Hey Steve, you gotta do a column on Dam Disaster Music some time. Clever musical pun for the videographers to pipe in Handel’s Water Music, but it’s kinda light and cheerful for the subject at hand. The first YT hit I got for ‘Grand Teton Dam’ utilized the Ride of the Valkyries. I wonder how it will end for Oroville – Concierto Aranjuez?

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  41. @anon
    I mostly can't read it anymore, but the New Yorker is against dams.

    http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/one-of-africas-biggest-dams-is-falling-apart

    And dams don't make money.


    In 2014, researchers at Oxford University reviewed the financial performance of two hundred and forty-five dams and concluded that the “construction costs of large dams are too high to yield a positive return.”
     

    Kariba’s collapse, like Mosul’s, would constitute an epochal event in the history of energy development—the dam industry’s Chernobyl.
     
    Sounds more like a wish than a fear. But the dam industry's Chernobyl has already happened: Banqiao and Shimantan Dams -- 171,000 fatalities.

    Extreme rainfall, beyond the planned design capability of the dam, dumped on China by Typhoon Nina. 11 million people lost their homes. Dam would later be rebuilt between 1986 and 1993. The People's Daily has maintained that the dam was designed to survive a once-in-1000-years flood (300 mm of rainfall per day) but a once-in-2000-years flood occurred in August 1975
     
    But his prior article got my attention:

    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/02/a-bigger-problem-than-isis

    Iraq has 'act of god' problems.


    If the dam ruptured, it would likely cause a catastrophe of Biblical proportions, loosing a wave as high as a hundred feet that would roll down the Tigris, swallowing everything in its path for more than a hundred miles. Large parts of Mosul would be submerged in less than three hours.
     
    I have to hand it to the Chinese. Hell, it was engineered for a 1 in 1000 year event. Since it failed, it was obviously a 1 in 2000 year event.

    However, the more interesting thing is that none of these was *that* much of a surprise. They were all disasters *waiting to happen*. The old Who/Whom. They build them to store water and they are going to do it ... flood control is a secondary benefit, until it doesn't work and it becomes a problem.

    To paraphrase The Greatest: ‘I don’t know what the existence of The New Yorker means, but if they’re agin’ it, I’m for it.’

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  42. @Steve Sailer
    Anybody know anything about Ethiopia's huge dam being built on the Blue Nile?

    Dams can also be strategic weapons. Ethiopia will have a chokehold on Sudan and Egypt, the way Turkey has a chokehold on Syria and Iraq via Euphrates River dams.

    Nice tie-in with another Saileresque theme: watershed divides make the best borders. In a true ‘Greater Mesopotamia’ this could not happen. One reason Switzerland is great – low vulnerability except to the NE.

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  43. @Anonym
    After this is all done I hope someone figures out the foregone power generation and dollar value of the power that was lost by releasing the water down the spillway.

    As a natural tightwad, this is something that bothers me too.

    I worked out earlier that the energy in the Oroville dam was 5E15 Joules. Dropping 37 of 770 feet means that at least (37/770) * 5 E15 Joules was expended. In fact, more than this because there is a lot more water in the top 37 feet than the rest of the dam, foot for foot.

    To convert Joules to kWh, multiply by 2.78E-7. So, there is (37/770) * 5E15 * 2.78E-7 = 6.8E7 kWh wasted, or at $0.18/kWh, $12M. Is this right? Only if there was no influx of water into the dam right now. But there is a crisis on due to rainfall, so obviously there is a lot of water flowing in. The total dam's worth of energy is at least $250M when full.

    If we are putting out 100k ft^3/s, then that is the same as 2831m^3/s.

    GPE
    = mgh
    = 2831000 * 9.8 * 235
    =6.5 E9 Joules

    Note that Joules per second is Watts, so the fact that we are expending 6.5E9 Joules per second is the same as saying that we are expending 6.5E9 Watts, or 6.5E6 kW, or 6.5 E3 MW, or 6.5GW. Does this make sense? Total installed capacity is 819MW, or 0.819GW. When we consider that the turbines can only use 13000 cubic feet per second, then one would expect that if we scaled it up by 100/13 then using 100k cubic feet per second would generate 6.3GW. So my math looks correct.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oroville_Dam#Hydroelectricity

    Convert Joules to kWh, multiply by 2.78E-7, so 6.5 E9 joules * 2.78E-7 = 1807kWh. Retail in cali is 18c/kWh.

    https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.cfm?t=epmt_5_6_a

    So we have $325/second being pissed away in power. That's $325 * 3600/hour or $1.17M/hour. $28M per day.

    I wonder how much it costs to double or triple the dam's capacity, and maintain that.

    https://www.renewablesfirst.co.uk/hydropower/hydropower-learning-centre/how-much-do-hydropower-systems-cost-to-build/

    Ok, so it costs $4k per kW installed, USD.

    https://www.quora.com/How-much-does-it-cost-to-make-1MW-hydroelectric-plant

    Another estimate is $3-6M per Megawatt. Which is in the ballpark. So it would cost roughly $3 billion to build the same capacity as it already has, let alone the capacity to handle this once in decades deluge. Considering this spillway has been used what, once? I think they got the capacity fairly right. It depends on how long the crisis lasts. It would have to last 125 days to match even the existing spend on generation capacity. Seems unlikely. And the plant won't get the retail value of the electricity. Maybe it would need to have a crisis lasting 250 days.

    One can say that they should have used more water for power earlier, but it's a balance - the higher you let the dam go, the more power you can generate per liter, but you will occasionally have to waste some over the spillway.

    Anonym, Thank you for the complex math, but you assume that they always run the turbines. Electricity is fed into a grid as needed. There is no storage of electricity except in batteries. Steam plants often have multiple turbines but one boiler, divert the steam to one, or two or three or don’t make steam.

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    • Replies: @Anonym
    Anonym, Thank you for the complex math, but you assume that they always run the turbines. Electricity is fed into a grid as needed. There is no storage of electricity except in batteries. Steam plants often have multiple turbines but one boiler, divert the steam to one, or two or three or don’t make steam.

    I don't think I assumed this? I certainly am aware that this is what is done, and it's a beauty of hydro power. As long as the turbines are sized to deal with typical peak usage demand, and can also deal with the annual averages (which they should by rights) then they are sized appropropriately. The calculations due to being able to supply expensive power in peaks may actually warrant larger generational capacity. But still the current need to spill are an order of magnitude greater with Oroville.

    The storage of energy associated with dams is in the gravitational potential energy of the water in the reservoir of the dam, due to mass and height above the valley below. It is not in electricity and I don't believe I said this. Effectively this GPE of the reservoir can be considered to be something of a giant battery. Oroville dam itself has 3 pump generators, used to pump back water into the dam during times of cheap electricity, charging the reservoir analogously to how an electrical battery is recharged.

    Most people don't realize that anything associated with generating lots of Watts of power (e.g. Megawatts+) is going to have a lot of potential energy stored in whatever energy must be converted to electricity. Whether it is in nuclear rods, or piles of coal, steel silos in a refinery, or in a dam reservoir, whenever that energy gets converted to something else quickly bad things happen - that potential to do a lot of work is also a potential to kill people. It is useful to consider natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunami, tornadoes (smaller scale), asteroid/meteor strikes in terms of energy. That's the common factor. On the low end, man-made disasters have similar energy levels. That's why I like to compare dam reservoir storage with kt of TNT yield of nukes. People tend to think because it's wet and lake-like, that it's safe.

    I think the coal is the safest because the only way it can be converted to heat is to be exposed to oxygen, so only the surface can really consume much oxygen. The larger something is, the lower its surface to volume ratio, so this is a handy fact for coal. However, coal has problems of its own and once a fire starts, it can burn for centuries and be very difficult to put out.
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  44. I have decided that the whole dam business, or should that be damn business? is being discussed in the wrong units.

    A cubic foot of water weighs about 62 pounds, in the interest of indolence let’s say 60.
    100,000 cfps into the spillway is therefore 6 million pounds or three thousand short tons per second.

    Now that’s how to think about this. Dropping that amount a few hundred feet every second is going to do real damage somewhere.

    Anybody seen any terminal velocity numbers?

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  45. Thank you for this. Those guys in the hard hats look like they know what they’re doing.

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  46. @Anonym
    Note as to scale - the 3 Gorges Dam produces 87 TWh. That would power Pakistan, but only 1.5% of China's current electricity consumption.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_electricity_consumption

    These numbers are huge. Note that China is the world's biggest electricity consumer, bigger than the USA.

    Anonym, when Obama ran for the office of president he promised he would shut down the coal industry and coal fired steam plants. He pretty much succeeded around here as the Dunkirk, NY, Somerset, NY and Tonawanda, NY coal fired steam plants are either shut down or on limited use. There is a plant just east of Cleveland that is currently being demolished. I am surprised that no enterprising Chinese businessman sought to disassemble the plant and ship the hard to produce steam drums, mud drums, high pressure pipes, induction fans, exhaust fans, coal pulverizing mills, turbines, generators and ship them to China. The structural steel is easily fabricated, the other machinery takes years to design and build.

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  47. This sounds like those annoying “swimming pool” and “tank” word problems in high school algebra. Given the level of incompetence in our society, I am always surprised that the lights usually go on, there’s gas for the stove, and the water flows through the taps.

    Except when they don’t, of course.

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  48. Anonym says:
    @Buffalo Joe
    Anonym, Thank you for the complex math, but you assume that they always run the turbines. Electricity is fed into a grid as needed. There is no storage of electricity except in batteries. Steam plants often have multiple turbines but one boiler, divert the steam to one, or two or three or don't make steam.

    Anonym, Thank you for the complex math, but you assume that they always run the turbines. Electricity is fed into a grid as needed. There is no storage of electricity except in batteries. Steam plants often have multiple turbines but one boiler, divert the steam to one, or two or three or don’t make steam.

    I don’t think I assumed this? I certainly am aware that this is what is done, and it’s a beauty of hydro power. As long as the turbines are sized to deal with typical peak usage demand, and can also deal with the annual averages (which they should by rights) then they are sized appropropriately. The calculations due to being able to supply expensive power in peaks may actually warrant larger generational capacity. But still the current need to spill are an order of magnitude greater with Oroville.

    The storage of energy associated with dams is in the gravitational potential energy of the water in the reservoir of the dam, due to mass and height above the valley below. It is not in electricity and I don’t believe I said this. Effectively this GPE of the reservoir can be considered to be something of a giant battery. Oroville dam itself has 3 pump generators, used to pump back water into the dam during times of cheap electricity, charging the reservoir analogously to how an electrical battery is recharged.

    Most people don’t realize that anything associated with generating lots of Watts of power (e.g. Megawatts+) is going to have a lot of potential energy stored in whatever energy must be converted to electricity. Whether it is in nuclear rods, or piles of coal, steel silos in a refinery, or in a dam reservoir, whenever that energy gets converted to something else quickly bad things happen – that potential to do a lot of work is also a potential to kill people. It is useful to consider natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunami, tornadoes (smaller scale), asteroid/meteor strikes in terms of energy. That’s the common factor. On the low end, man-made disasters have similar energy levels. That’s why I like to compare dam reservoir storage with kt of TNT yield of nukes. People tend to think because it’s wet and lake-like, that it’s safe.

    I think the coal is the safest because the only way it can be converted to heat is to be exposed to oxygen, so only the surface can really consume much oxygen. The larger something is, the lower its surface to volume ratio, so this is a handy fact for coal. However, coal has problems of its own and once a fire starts, it can burn for centuries and be very difficult to put out.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Cortes
    But in a state like California is there not a case to be made in favour of "occasional downstream reservoirs " with reduced agricultural taxes and rents but primed to receive the (currently) wasted overflow from infrequent storm surges? Maybe 50/51 years such reservoirs are redundant for water storage but can be applied for agriculture.
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  49. Whoever says:
    @Steve Sailer
    Anybody know anything about Ethiopia's huge dam being built on the Blue Nile?

    Dams can also be strategic weapons. Ethiopia will have a chokehold on Sudan and Egypt, the way Turkey has a chokehold on Syria and Iraq via Euphrates River dams.

    Dams can also be strategic weapons.

    China seems to be developing such a weapon against India.

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  50. @Steve Sailer
    Hydro is a no brainer for the best sites. The Columbia River? Since it produces over 40% of US hydro, obviously it is a great deal.

    Especially since all the aluminum for military aircraft that Columbia River hydropower produced was crucial to winning WWII and the Cold War.

    I think I read somewhere that the government paid Woody Guthrie to write this song…

    Now from Washington and Oregon you can hear them factories hum,
    Making chrome and making manganese and light aluminum.
    Now the roar of the Flying Fortress to fight for Uncle Sam,
    That King Columbia river and the great Grand Coulee dam.

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  51. @Jack Hanson
    You saw that press conference yesterday and that's what you took away from it?

    LMBO its doom o clock forever with some of you people.

    Give him some concrete reassurances

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  52. Cortes says:
    @Anonym
    Anonym, Thank you for the complex math, but you assume that they always run the turbines. Electricity is fed into a grid as needed. There is no storage of electricity except in batteries. Steam plants often have multiple turbines but one boiler, divert the steam to one, or two or three or don’t make steam.

    I don't think I assumed this? I certainly am aware that this is what is done, and it's a beauty of hydro power. As long as the turbines are sized to deal with typical peak usage demand, and can also deal with the annual averages (which they should by rights) then they are sized appropropriately. The calculations due to being able to supply expensive power in peaks may actually warrant larger generational capacity. But still the current need to spill are an order of magnitude greater with Oroville.

    The storage of energy associated with dams is in the gravitational potential energy of the water in the reservoir of the dam, due to mass and height above the valley below. It is not in electricity and I don't believe I said this. Effectively this GPE of the reservoir can be considered to be something of a giant battery. Oroville dam itself has 3 pump generators, used to pump back water into the dam during times of cheap electricity, charging the reservoir analogously to how an electrical battery is recharged.

    Most people don't realize that anything associated with generating lots of Watts of power (e.g. Megawatts+) is going to have a lot of potential energy stored in whatever energy must be converted to electricity. Whether it is in nuclear rods, or piles of coal, steel silos in a refinery, or in a dam reservoir, whenever that energy gets converted to something else quickly bad things happen - that potential to do a lot of work is also a potential to kill people. It is useful to consider natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunami, tornadoes (smaller scale), asteroid/meteor strikes in terms of energy. That's the common factor. On the low end, man-made disasters have similar energy levels. That's why I like to compare dam reservoir storage with kt of TNT yield of nukes. People tend to think because it's wet and lake-like, that it's safe.

    I think the coal is the safest because the only way it can be converted to heat is to be exposed to oxygen, so only the surface can really consume much oxygen. The larger something is, the lower its surface to volume ratio, so this is a handy fact for coal. However, coal has problems of its own and once a fire starts, it can burn for centuries and be very difficult to put out.

    But in a state like California is there not a case to be made in favour of “occasional downstream reservoirs ” with reduced agricultural taxes and rents but primed to receive the (currently) wasted overflow from infrequent storm surges? Maybe 50/51 years such reservoirs are redundant for water storage but can be applied for agriculture.

    Read More
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  53. Tad says:

    I grew up downriver from this dam, was in high school in 1983, and remember this well. The breadth of Steve’s knowledge is amazing.

    Read More
    • Agree: Dan Hayes
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  54. @(((Owen)))

    If I make up a list of famous people I’ve heard of who went down the Colorado River on boats before the late 1960s, it’s a list of Legends of the West: John Wesley Powell in 1869, Barry Goldwater in 1940, and David Brower in 1964.
     
    Writer Ed Abbey and movie star Katie Lee. The men that created tourism in Moab including Ken Slight. The founders of the western Uranium industry, I believe including Charlie Steen.

    Certainly Fathers Dominguez and Escalante, the first white men to see the southwest traveled on the Colorado river in Glen Canyon. There's an historical site with plaques 400' under the dead waters of Glen Canyon reservoir.

    ----

    They were planning at least three dams in the Grand Canyon and you can still see the scarring from their testing and preliminary engineering works. They would have destroyed it entirely if they had the chance.

    I went on a Ken Sleight raft trip down the Colorado with some (extended) family members I think in 1961 when I was 14. Five day trip. All that’s under Lake Powell now. (I’m not famous, though.)

    Read More
    • Replies: @(((Owen)))
    Lucky you. I had a nice group dinner with Ken and listened to stories about Ed Abbey at Pack Creek Ranch a couple decades back. It was magical.
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  55. donut says:
    @EriK
    Roll On Columbia
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBQG7crRiNg

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  56. The two years in question, 1983 & 84 had much greater than usual precipitation. Interesting none of the major newspapers at the time, which had much higher circulation in the early eighties then now, used the term “climate change” or “global warming”. I guess they hadn’t yet figured out how to use fear of climate change to advocate for more funding of the Science/Government/Industrial complex.

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  57. donut says:

    We did not arrive and dominate this land . On the contrary this New World molded us. Not to any purpose . Nature has no purpose , no goal . This Universe is as aware of and as indifferent to us and our desires as it is to the poison dart frog and the e-coli . All the “sublime” and “noble” creations of man are equally without value . The comfort that they give us are only obstacles . Truth is deep , deep , deep down and far away . There is no God to help us to that place , only our own feeble efforts can deliver us . Jesus was only a man , as are we all . Be diligent in your search .

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  58. @psmith
    Ed Abbey floated most of it in the fifties, maybe the whole thing. I first heard about Glen Canyon from his books. It was for him what Hetch Hetchy was for John Muir, roughly speaking.

    (I expect Abbey to be picked up by the Weird Right and summarily disavowed by what remains of the environmentalist left any day now--he was pretty unambiguously opposed to illegal immigration, on grounds that we would all recognize.).

    Abbey wrote a log of his trip down the Glen Canyon just before the dam closed in Desert Solitare. The whole book is must reading if you love America.

    Ed Abbey was a real environmentalist. Not just a liberal that preferred clean water to dirty and wanted to leave some of our ancient forests standing, but a real hard green environmentalist.

    “It might be wise for us as American citizens to consider calling a halt to the mass influx of even more millions of hungry, ignorant, unskilled, and culturally-morally-genetically impoverished people. At least until we have brought our own affairs into order. Especially when these uninvited millions bring with them an alien mode of life which – let us be honest about this – is not appealing to the majority of Americans. Why not? Because we prefer democratic government, for one thing; because we still hope for an open, spacious, uncrowded, and beautiful–yes, beautiful!–society, for another. The alternative, in the squalor, cruelty, and corruption of Latin America, is plain for all to see.”

    -”Immigration and Liberal Taboos” by Edward Abbey

    http://compassrosebooks.blogspot.com/2009/10/edward-abbey-on-immigration.html

    Boy howdy that essay is good. Sample:

    “Or if we must meddle, as we have always done, let us meddle for a change in a constructive way. Stop every campesino at our southern border, give him a handgun, a good rifle, and a case of ammunition, and send him home. He will know what to do with our gifts and good wishes. The people know who their enemies are.”

    “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell.”

    Read More
    • Replies: @Buck Turgidson
    Of course The Monkey Wrench Gang is focused around Glen Canyon Dam. Fantastic book, I've read > once and probably would be on my top 10 favorites (I admittedly am not much of a literary connoisseur, I am more of an outdoors redneck flyover country kinda guy).
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  59. @hark, hark...the snark
    I went on a Ken Sleight raft trip down the Colorado with some (extended) family members I think in 1961 when I was 14. Five day trip. All that's under Lake Powell now. (I'm not famous, though.)

    Lucky you. I had a nice group dinner with Ken and listened to stories about Ed Abbey at Pack Creek Ranch a couple decades back. It was magical.

    Read More
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  60. Stogumber says:

    I wonder about Steve’s headline. Reminds to me my pet ghost story, E.F. Benson’s “How fear departed from the Long Gallery”.
    Is there a certain Anglo-American tradition in this kind of headlines? Where is the origin?

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  61. Whitehall says:
    @Steve Sailer
    Hydro is a no brainer for the best sites. The Columbia River? Since it produces over 40% of US hydro, obviously it is a great deal.

    Especially since all the aluminum for military aircraft that Columbia River hydropower produced was crucial to winning WWII and the Cold War.

    Columbia River hydroelectricity and cooling water were also critical for America’s plutonium works at Hanford. Access were to these were key factors in site selection during the Manhattan Project, along with easy rail access to the transcontinental rail service at nearby Pasco.

    Construction of the Grand Coolee Dam was accelerated to support demand.

    Interesting that the dam is not on the Grand Coolee, but pumps water from the Columbia over the ridge to flow down the Grand Coolee instead.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    And I imagine the Oak Ridge part of the Manhattan Project was tied into the Tennessee Valley Authority building all those hydroelectric dams.
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  62. @Whitehall
    Columbia River hydroelectricity and cooling water were also critical for America's plutonium works at Hanford. Access were to these were key factors in site selection during the Manhattan Project, along with easy rail access to the transcontinental rail service at nearby Pasco.

    Construction of the Grand Coolee Dam was accelerated to support demand.

    Interesting that the dam is not on the Grand Coolee, but pumps water from the Columbia over the ridge to flow down the Grand Coolee instead.

    And I imagine the Oak Ridge part of the Manhattan Project was tied into the Tennessee Valley Authority building all those hydroelectric dams.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Whitehall
    Adequate electric power for Oak Ridge was a selection criteria too.

    TVA went so far as to build a coal-fired power plant to run the gaseous diffusion plants at Oak Ridge. They were built concurrently and the enrichment plant designers had not yet figured out what speed to run the pumps, of which there are 1000s.

    So the new plant was a dual-frequency plant able to produce power at the normal US frequency of 60 Hz or 50 Hz if needed. The pumps could then run at either 3600 rpm or 3000 rpm (or some even fractions of those speeds.)
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  63. Whitehall says:
    @Steve Sailer
    And I imagine the Oak Ridge part of the Manhattan Project was tied into the Tennessee Valley Authority building all those hydroelectric dams.

    Adequate electric power for Oak Ridge was a selection criteria too.

    TVA went so far as to build a coal-fired power plant to run the gaseous diffusion plants at Oak Ridge. They were built concurrently and the enrichment plant designers had not yet figured out what speed to run the pumps, of which there are 1000s.

    So the new plant was a dual-frequency plant able to produce power at the normal US frequency of 60 Hz or 50 Hz if needed. The pumps could then run at either 3600 rpm or 3000 rpm (or some even fractions of those speeds.)

    Read More
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  64. Whitehall says:
    @bomag

    Strikingly, as Part 2 below recounts, one way they kept the dam from overflowing was by temporarily raising the height of the dam by installing vertical flashboards in a two day long effort. Could something similar be done along Oroville’s 1730 foot emergency spillway? How long would it take to add, say, 8 feet to the height of the emergency spillway?
     
    There is a lot more room for error in doing this to a concrete dam versus an earth filled. The Vajont dam in Italy was estimated to have survived an 850 feet overtopping flow; astounding. Earth filled dams don't lend themselves as readily to higher levels; soak area and all that; so this would be a very last ditch effort.

    As a general rule of thumb, an earthen or rock-filled dam is 10X as risky as a concrete dam, but a lot cheaper to build and has more suitable sites still available for technical and economic reasons.

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  65. @(((Owen)))
    Abbey wrote a log of his trip down the Glen Canyon just before the dam closed in Desert Solitare. The whole book is must reading if you love America.

    Ed Abbey was a real environmentalist. Not just a liberal that preferred clean water to dirty and wanted to leave some of our ancient forests standing, but a real hard green environmentalist.

    "It might be wise for us as American citizens to consider calling a halt to the mass influx of even more millions of hungry, ignorant, unskilled, and culturally-morally-genetically impoverished people. At least until we have brought our own affairs into order. Especially when these uninvited millions bring with them an alien mode of life which - let us be honest about this - is not appealing to the majority of Americans. Why not? Because we prefer democratic government, for one thing; because we still hope for an open, spacious, uncrowded, and beautiful--yes, beautiful!--society, for another. The alternative, in the squalor, cruelty, and corruption of Latin America, is plain for all to see."

    -"Immigration and Liberal Taboos" by Edward Abbey

    http://compassrosebooks.blogspot.com/2009/10/edward-abbey-on-immigration.html

    Boy howdy that essay is good. Sample:

    "Or if we must meddle, as we have always done, let us meddle for a change in a constructive way. Stop every campesino at our southern border, give him a handgun, a good rifle, and a case of ammunition, and send him home. He will know what to do with our gifts and good wishes. The people know who their enemies are."

    "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell."

    Of course The Monkey Wrench Gang is focused around Glen Canyon Dam. Fantastic book, I’ve read > once and probably would be on my top 10 favorites (I admittedly am not much of a literary connoisseur, I am more of an outdoors redneck flyover country kinda guy).

    Read More
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  66. California’s failure to concrete the hillside below Oroville’s emergency spillway is criminal. Considering the financial damage so far, that is not too strong a statement.

    The media, as usual, is derelict too.

    Does anyone believe that the media would be focused on “the rain” instead of the criminal negligence of the owner/managers of that dam if it was privately owned?

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