Dam every river! Chop down every tree!

Our President* is now claiming that allowing rivers to flow into the ocean is bad, and that we could stop wildfires but clear-cutting everything.

We could probably end all the fires if we paved over the entirety of California.

We really need to elect a swarm of Democrats in the midterms so we can end this misery.


  1. Ed Seedhouse says

    Brilliant! We can reduce the size of guvmn’t by eliminating the fire departments simply by razing all our houses to the ground…

  2. Akira MacKenzie says

    We really need to elect a swarm of Democrats in the midterms so we can end this misery.

    A pretty dream, but I’ve been disappointed far too many times to believe that will happen. More likely, all of our outrage and optimism will break against the walls of gerrymandering, voter suppression chicanery, and apathy, resulting in the preservation of the status quo.

  3. Bruce says

    Wait until Trump learns that, all his life, there is a “Hudson” river in New York that is constantly dumping fresh water into an ocean that is NOT the Pacific Ocean. And the Gulf of Mexico is stealing our precious body-politic fluids from some sort of Mississippi River thing. I hear that journalist Mark Twain is doing great things with his reporting on Life on the Mississippi River. He should get together with Frederick Douglass about stuff.

  4. cartomancer says

    The thing that annoys me the most about this is that Donald Trump is in no way, shape or form a fire safety expert. He has no education, experience or relevant skills when it comes to the prevention or management of large-scale fires, and he clearly has not consulted with those who have. And yet, he presumes that he is entitled to use his public position to treat everyone else to the full force of his “wot I reckon” blatherings on the subject. The chutzpah, hubris and sheer arrogant self-regard of the man is limitless. His lack of humility when he has so much to be humble about is maddening.

    Perhaps we should send him out on his own to tackle the next big wildfire that happens. Since he’s so fond of crying “witch hunt”, he might warm to a painful death amid wooden stakes and burning. One can dream…

  5. says

    Cross-posted from comment 240 in the Political Madness All the Time thread.

    Analysis and commentary from Hunter:

    […] As someone who is looking at the smoke pillars from one of those fires outside my window, I can assure you that this [Trump’s tweet] doesn’t make any more sense than you think it might. California wildfires have been made worse by viciously hot weather and by dry conditions that are arriving and persisting long past what would have been considered normal a few decades ago. […]

    California timberlands have been severely damaged by drought and resulting catastrophic insect infestations. Firefighters have been noting, with alarm, that fires that previously would have burned themselves out on their own are now instead maintaining their strength far longer. Rapid human expansion into previously rural areas is compounding the problem; there’s simply far more to protect than there was a few decades ago.

    Hunter also noted that the Trump administration cut firefighting capabilities by reducing funding by hundreds of millions of dollars. Trump is a wildfire threat.
    More from Hunter’s commentary:

    As for his two specific claims, they are not so much “wrong” as baffling. There is no “massive amount” of water in California to be diverted to the Pacific Ocean; that is the whole point. There are more claimants for water than there is water to be claimed. The Central Valley aquifer has been dropping precipitously due to farmland pumping; water battles between farmers and urban areas continue to worsen, and rationing is commonplace after any winter with a less-than-average snowpack.

    […] water diversion doesn’t have a damn thing to do with these wilderness fires. Does … does Donald think we irrigate our currently burning grasslands and forestlands? Does he imagine that we water each tree and mountain—or would, if only the water wasn’t being “diverted” to the ocean instead? Is he sincerely stupid enough to think so? It is possible, but for the record: the places water is “diverted” to consist of farmland and major California cities, not brush lands and forests. […]

    The nub of Donald’s claim is likely a barely literate attempt to weigh in on a long-running battle between California farmers and now-decimated California fisheries. A series of court decisions have ordered limits to just how much water can be taken from salmon spawning grounds and other key fish habitats during drought years, […] Because Donald is so stupid as to be barely functional and is almost entirely illiterate, he has somehow conflated these pitched Central Valley lobbyist battles with an imagined “massive amount” of invisible water that we apparently should be using to … water our mountain ranges and forests, if only environmentalists would let us.

    As for the reference to “tree clear”ing? The fires are not being caused by too many trees. The current Mendocino Complex fires did not start in forests at all, but spread rapidly through brush and oak-scattered grasslands before reaching anything that could be plausibly considered timberlands. […]

    But since “tree clear” is not an actual policy, we can’t judge just what the hell he may have meant. And we can rest assured that he will never follow up with anything more than an equivalently silly word-fart, because it has been proven over and over, on every subject of national concern, that he cannot.

    Indeed, he obliged us today.

    Governor Jerry Brown must allow the Free Flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the North and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Can be used for fires, farming and everything else. Think of California with plenty of Water – Nice! Fast Federal govt. approvals.

    All right, so now the ambiguity has been removed; he’s just an idiot. A moron. A dimwit. A pillar of oversized alphabet blocks wearing a suit and a too-long tie. He sincerely thinks that if we divert water “coming from the North”—where the major fires are currently burning—we can use them for “fires.” Perhaps by bottling it and shipping it back, tree by burning tree? […]

  6. says

    […] Wildfire expert Prof. Eric Kennedy tweeted that Trump’s tweet was “comedically ill-informed” adding “it’s near impossible to overstate how ridiculous this comment is.”

    California climate and water expert Peter Gleick tweeted that Trump’s explanation was “gobbledygook bullshit” and “unmitigated crap.”

    In a tweet directed at the President, he explained that “California’s forests are burning because of past severe drought and current extreme temperatures and weather, worsened by human-caused climate change, which you think, in your fantasy world, doesn’t exist.”

    “On the water side, it boggles the mind,” as LeRoy Westerling, a leading expert on wildfires and climate change, told the San Francisco Chronicle. The UC Merced professor explained, “We do manage all of our rivers in California, and all the water is allocated many times over. So I’m not sure what he was recommending.”

    Westerling added, “Even if we eliminated all habitat for riparian species and fish, and allowed saltwater intrusion into the delta and set up a sprinkler system over the state, that wouldn’t compensate for greater moisture loss from climate change.”

    An alternate tweet for Trump was offered by Westerling: “Ongoing warming and accelerated climate change are driving unpredictable increases and extreme fire in California across a wide range of ecosystems.”

    Meanwhile John Upton, a journalist at Climate Central, tweeted, “Clearing forests is not a fire solution. Wildfires would be safer if overgrowth was removed. That’s most effectively done through controlled burns, which requires funding.” […]

    Think Progress link

    Team Trump has cut funding for controlled burns.

  7. says

    We Asked a California Water Expert to Make Sense of Donald Trump’s Moronic Wildfire Tweets: It was a futile mission.

    […] Mother Jones: Is our water really being diverted into the ocean? And are our firefighters complaining that they don’t have enough water to tackle the wildfires in the north?

    Peter Gleick: That’s completely absurd! There is no environmental law that has put any limits whatsoever on the amount of water available to fight these fires. There’s no shortage of water to fight these fires. Of course, it’s always extremely difficult to understand what Donald Trump’s tweets mean or what he thinks he’s saying or what he knows. […]

    Both the President’s tweets reveal a profound misunderstanding of the way California water works. It’s not that we’re diverting water into the Pacific Ocean. The tiny amount of water that reaches the Pacific Ocean these days is what’s left after we’ve diverted the vast majority of our rivers to cities and farms. He just has this completely backward. And furthermore, there’s no water policy that would have made these fires worse. We don’t take water from the forest. The forest provides water to use, and water is allocated to farmers and to cities and a little bit to the fish. And what’s left is in the rivers. And it flows down to our ecosystems.

    There’s just nothing in his tweet that makes any sense, except maybe the very last line.

    MJ: “Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading.” What is he referring to there? […]

    PG: I imagine he’s throwing a bone to the lumber industry that would like to do more cutting. There isn’t any disagreement that California forest policy—and forest policy in the United States—shouldn’t be better. Everybody agrees it should be better. That’s been true for decades. Whether or not a different forest policy and timber policy put in place decades ago would have changed the risk of forest fire, we don’t really know. We do know we need to do a better job at managing forests. But I don’t think that is what he’s commenting on.

    He’s also completely ignoring the other reality, which is that years of severe drought have killed California forests and left a lot of fire material available. And climate change is causing extreme heat and extreme weather that is making these fires worse.

    MJ: Climate change is clearly not on the agenda for this administration.

    PG: That’s right. Every scientist in the world understands that climate change is real, and it’s making these kinds of extreme events worse. But either he’s unaware of that or he doesn’t care.

    MJ: Why does it benefit the president to present the issue in this way?

    PG: He’s clearly pandering to those in California who think that we could squeeze more water out of the system for their own usage, which is part of the debate we’ve been having in for 100 years. There’s nothing new about the fight over California water. But the president is weighing in, both in an ignorant fashion and in an extremely unhelpful fashion. It’s typical that he’s not only tweeting his ignorance about the way resource policy works, but he’s said nothing about the victims of these fires. It’s typical of his insensitivity.

  8. whheydt says

    The SF Chronicle used to have a humor columnist named Art Hoppe. He wrote some really biting columns about the Viet Nam War when that was going on. in one memorable column he proposed that we pave Viet Nam so that our troops would know what they were fighting for…parking spaces.

  9. jack lecou says

    Say what you will about Trump, but I say he’s a boon to science.

    It’s kind of like how physicists have been able to learn so much about the laws of the universe based on just the idea of black holes — even without close observation. Trump’s sort of the same thing for the Peter Principle. We should soon be able to quantify the precise relationships between privilege, competence, and power. I predict a heady mix of exponents and negative exponents.

    The worst part is that the commentary in 5 is almost giving him too much credit.

    Like, it assumes Trump is himself making some kind of reference to the CA agriculture/fishery water conflict, however mangled. The idea is apparently that maybe he read something about that fight a while ago, and is now recalling it and making a connection to the present crisis, albeit through a distorted my tribe vs. their tribe lens and hilarious level of geographic and hydrological ignorance.

    But that hypothesis assumes reading — and reading a piece of fairly impractical, distant information, no less, with no obvious way to blame brown people* — as well as long term recall and an ability to make abstract connections.

    You know what actually happened is just that this is just badly parroting back the last thing he saw somehow. One of three possibilities:

    (1). It came up on Fox news or Infowars or something recently,

    (2). Some staffer handed him a briefing paper. You know, the ones that aren’t allowed to be more than one page. And must mention Trump’s name, policies, and (presumably) political enemies as frequently as possible. (I’m assuming they are also written in some kind of VOA reduced vocabulary, and, at this point, are written by whatever bottom of the barrel skeleton staff is still left slithering around the Whitehouse.),

    (3). Mentioned by some rich asshole/idiot chum he was golfing and/or having late night phone chat venting sessions with.

    Presumably the CA fires and this water shit came up in one of those contexts. It probably didn’t make any particular sense there either. The short journey through those tiny fingers into the Twitter keyboard would have left it even less intact.

    (*) I mean, I guess there’s a golf course connection maybe? Dunno what else would have hooked him in to such a feat of literary hubris, if it happened.

  10. microraptor says

    California’s water shortage issue has been so bad that there’s been talk about trying to divert water from Oregon, despite Oregon also having been suffering from drought for years as well.

  11. willj says

    Ten years ago, I lived on the border of Arizona and New Mexico years in a beautiful, pristine high-altitude forest you would not believe could exist there. They had been doing controlled burns for years. Didn’t stop me from being ejected when a monster fire came and burned it all to the ground. It grew rapidly due to extreme dryness and hot temps, most likely from climate change. Right wingers at the time were saying it was due to not letting logging companies clear out the forests.

  12. Ragutis says


    I had a moderately sized comment to post that got et, but I’ve realized that it all I really need is one of three one-liners or perhaps some combination:

    “What a fucking idiot”

    “What an ignorant fuck”

    What a malignant shitstain”

    Rather than an opportunistic, self-serving bullshit tweet, maybe offer some help for the thousands affected and compassion for those whose lives were lost. FFS, sending “Brownie” in there would be a major improvement over your ego-feeding snide snipe at Jerry Brown. We know what kind of person you are, and if we didn’t, you throwing your son under the bus the other day proved it. But you’re President now. At least pretend you give a shit about the people of this nation, whether or not they are likely to vote for you. Hell, if you had half a brain, you might see that actually helping people could earn you some votes, you dumb, worthless, inhuman piece of shit.

  13. jack lecou says

    The “more logging” bullshit is the worst.

    There is clearly a need for better forest management practices, but a lot of that isn’t going to be logging, but instead far more labor intensive and less lucrative maintenance activity. Because one of the problems — at least as I recall from back when I lived in OR — is that logging, especially clear-cutting, tends to just leave convenient gaps in the forest where lots of flammable undergrowth can spring up. Where there’s been logging, the small stuff really needs to be kept in check manually until the trees can grow back big enough to do the job again.

    Fires can happen with no trees in sight, after all. Those tend to be, if anything, even faster and more vicious. I mean, California is a great example. Aren’t a lot of the fires further down the state mostly grass and brush fires not forest fires per se?

  14. says

    While an idiot, as usual, he isn’t entirely wrong about the water. California “had” far, far, more reservoirs in the past, and they seem to keep bloody getting rid of them, instead of rebuilding them, or building more, to cache all the water that they otherwise just let go straight out to the ocean. And, no, keeping it some place doesn’t mean you don’t let it still go there, it means you keep enough of it for human use, then let the rest go anyway. But, they won’t even do that. Instead they pump water, which doesn’t flow right straight past them, every year, during rains, from places that are now suffering drought conditions because they have drained so much non-free, non-annual, non-rain water that they almost don’t have any left to give. They need to get their heads out of their asses about this, because, currently, California policy on the subject is just flat stupid.

    But, yeah.. The wildfire thing.. Sigh.. California has clear standards on how close you can have trees, on your property, in areas of fire hazard, never mind brush, etc., but the rich, Trump like, idiot that buy property in those areas refuse to follow the rules, and the state seems to have taken the tack of, “It would cost money, and annoy the rich, if we came in and did it ourselves. The result is fires that burn down homes practically every freaking year, because no one follows, or enforces, the laws. Getting rid of the trees wouldn’t do a damn thing, the same idiots would just let the brush grow too tall, and too close, instead. Maybe he should suggest, “salting the land” to solve that? lol

  15. says

    BTW, the above is, in part, a view of my brother, who until recently lived in the state, and shook his head, every year, when they had “floods” and the “concrete” river, running past LA, if not as full as it once was, then still “full enough”, and all of that seasonal water being allowed to just dump into the ocean. I mean, really, what the F wildlife would they “harm” by caching water that isn’t even flowing in a real river, which supplies the living plants and animals around it, but just a bloody giant cement channel? Where was the logic in now store housing “any” of that, instead of just letting all of it dump into the ocean? But, yeah, otherwise.. there is still a bit of a problem, and I think it all comes down to the whole “water rights” wars going on. Even if there where sensible methods of mitigation, or use reduction, there is a resistance, on all sides, to using them, because, “My god, if you do that, you will steal my water.” But, what do you expect from a state where LA has “rights” to water 500 miles away, and is the biggest thief of them all, instead of, like everything else they don’t do, but need to, finding a better solution, while its still reasonably cheap (instead of, like they have done with light rail, delaying, and delaying, as the cost of doing it, and the land available to do it on, goes up and up, and vanishes, bit by bit.

  16. blf says

    Kagehi@16, Loads of citations needed there…!

    The overall capacity of the reservoirs had been broadly constant since about 1980, at around 45 million acre-feet. There is now around 1500 dams in the inventory, up from around 1300 in about 1980. Since about then, something like 40 dams have been dismantled, all small, due to filling with sediment, earthquake danger, and various other issues. (Dams in California, Public Policy Institute of California.)

  17. lumipuna says

    So, apparently Trump’s handlers decided to use the California wildfire crisis as an excuse to dogwhistle to California farmers that Trump administration supports their battle against environmental conservation, while hoping they’ll ignore the growing residential water use and drying climate.

  18. jack lecou says

    Forget water, what California really needs is a giant state-sized, fireproof asbestos suit. A shame the stuff is banned. Thankfully, some new Trump-approved EPA regulations have got you covered.

    Trump has long been vocal about his skepticism on the harmful effects of asbestos, citing in his 1997 book, The Art of the Comeback, that anti-asbestos efforts were “led by the mob.” In 2012, he tweeted that the World Trade Center might not have burned had the fire-retardant material not been removed from the towers.

    Don’t miss the “Trump approved” seal the grateful Russian (ahem) asbestos exporter is apparently stamping on its shipping pallets.

  19. Callinectes says

    Kahegi@16, building new reservoirs in California is like opening new bank accounts without increasing your actual income.

  20. bryanfeir says

    Also, as was noted in the quotes in #6, blocking water from reaching the ocean often leads to the ocean water making its way back up the delta along the riverbeds. Just ask the folks in Louisiana.

  21. Petal to the Medal says

    Donald should have listened to Elvis:
    Like a river flows surely to the sea / Darling so it goes / Some things are meant to be …

  22. says

    Marcus @17, you’ve discovered Trump’s plan: steal all available fresh water and make California into one giant golf course for the deplorables.

  23. ridana says

    I think the rant was motivated by his having to authorize disaster funds for CA, which probably nearly killed him. So his way of venting was to wag his finger at us and tell us how to do everything “right.” Meanwhile, he’s busy trying to choke us to death by trying to rescind CA’s right to set tougher air quality and automotive fuel efficiency standards than the rest of the nation.

    As far as I can tell, Trump’s endgame is to put as much carbon into the air as possible (see pushing for more oil and coal consumption, demonizing renewable energy, rolling back Clean Air Act regs, defanging the EPA, etc.) in a childishly defiant pout of “You’re not the boss of me!!” at the Universe, to prove that global climate change is a hoax. He knows that if (when) it turns out he’s undeniably wrong, he won’t be alive to suffer the consequences of it, and he doesn’t care that his children will be.

  24. ck, the Irate Lump says

    Because there’s just so much awful to go around, here’s California Corrections bragging about their inmate “volunteer” firefighters:

    CA Corrections
    Today, more than 2,000 volunteer inmate firefighters, including 58 youth offenders, are battling wildfire flames throughout CA. Inmate firefighters serve a vital role, clearing thick brush down to bare soil to stop the fire’s spread. #CarrFire #FergusonFire #MendocinoComplex
    Source: https://twitter.com/CACorrections/status/1024439641221419008


  25. jrkrideau says

    @ 26 ck, the Irate Lump
    oday, more than 2,000 volunteer inmate firefighters, …
    Well slave labour or “I’ll do anything to get out of this hell-hole” comes to mind. I think we are probably speaking of total exploitation of the inmates unless they are being paid at the same rate as any other firefighter.

    On the other hand, I can see that a lot of inmates would be happy to volunteer for fire service. Most inmates, in my experience, are happy to contribute to the general good, and a change of venue from concrete cells to an exciting outdoors could appeal.

  26. Erp says

    There are major questions about how ‘volunteer’ some of them are. They are paid relatively well by prison standards ($1/hour while on the fire lines), they do get better food, and the biggest incentive is they get double time off their sentence for good behavior (normal is 1 day off for 1 day of good behavior but those in the conservation camps who are they ones called up for fire line duty get 2 days off for each day of good behavior). I also suspect it is one of the few types of prison employment that would be a serious positive when applying for a job post prison (at least in California); there are apparently some fire departments in California that will hire those with felony convictions who have been a prison fire fighter while serving their sentence (normally a felony conviction is a bar to being hired as a fire fighter).

    However it is hard (clearing brush for 24 hours on though sometimes a lot more then 24 hours off) dangerous work and some have been killed on the fire lines. I did check and ‘youthful offender’ in California law can mean someone in their early 20s (I was concerned they had minors on the fire lines [I’m actually still concerned since one of the conservation camps is for juveniles]).

  27. raven says

    Cutting more trees down wouldn’t do a whole lot for the Mendocino fires.
    They didn’t start burning in dense forest.
    They started burning in an area that was grasslands with some brush and oak trees here and there.
    Oak savanna.

  28. raven says

    Most all the experts on fires and climatology are blaming these new and larger California fires on…climate change!!!
    You can’t take just one fire and make a claim like that.
    But we now have a large and getting larger baseline to start doing statistics and it all points to…climate change.

    California is getting hit hard now but other regions of the USA will get hit later by global warming.
    The rising seas will impact the Atlantic coast, mostly down south, especially Florida, and the gulf coast as well. Hurricanes will be stronger.
    The arctic is changing rapidly as well in many ways.

    Hard to say how bad things have to get before the climate change denialists go the way of the Flat Earthers.

  29. A momentary lapse... says


    Meanwhile, he’s busy trying to choke us to death by trying to rescind CA’s right to set tougher air quality and automotive fuel efficiency standards than the rest of the nation.

    And there I was thinking that the Republicans were the party that was in favour of states’ rights. But I’m not a USian so I’ve probably got it confused.

  30. rrhain says

    And, of course, he doesn’t seem to know that we passed a ballot measure specifically to manage water for things like fires back in 2014.

    And then there were the conservation laws signed back in May of this year.

    But, where did I get the idea that Trump knew anything about California? Or anything, really.

  31. johnson catman says

    jack lecou@21, Akira MacKenzie@34: I cannot imagine that 45 would let them use his likeness without some type of compensation. Isn’t it illegal for the president to use his office to enrich himself?
    Oh, stupid me, IOKIYAR.

  32. says

    Ok, like I said, I was mostly expressing the rant that my brother had on the subject. But, I still think there is a minor point. At minimum, there is a bloody lot of water which flows “through” LA, which doesn’t seem to go much of any place, other than into the ocean, during the rainy season. I can’t imagine its impossible to capture at least some of it, instead of just spreading out more pipelines to other places, and taking water from them. Its almost become like the joke in Tank Girl. In this case, LA Water and Power – Owning most of the water, and all of the power. Having spent my childhood as what is known as Owen’s Valley, it was already in my childhood changed from what used to be semi-grass land into “high desert”. I am not sure how “accurate” this statement was, since there have been political wars over water rights in the area for decades, and they had to come up with mitigation for the dust from Owen’s Lake, due to how much they sucked out of it, not to mention others in the region. We.. all had very little sense of humor about having a giant concrete river, almost full, dumping untold amounts of water, instead of collecting it, somehow, while they kept trying to “buy” more access to water in places that couldn’t afford to let them just pump even more of it out. It.. kind of biases a persons perspective a bit.. lol

  33. unclefrogy says

    trump does not have any principles as such only a broad goal of being rich and powerful himself. He is a salesman/conman and will say anything at all just to keep the customer or mark interested it does not have to be consistent or true in any way. His biggest problem now is everyone is listening and recording and remembering everything he says or problem is we try to make sense out of it, the “believers” see what they want to see (which is his goal) and his opponents go off on the details and try to argue rational points which he just ignores anyway, and just spouts some more irrational irrelevant BS.

    It does look rather strange and awesome to see the flood control channels that were once free rivers running at great speed huge amounts of water down to the sea when the rains come. If you look into the past you will find frequent floods when the rains came streets would be impassable for days and you had to learn how to drive in high water ( I have lived in “L.A'” over 60 years) if you look back further you will see that from where the bluffs rise to the southbay in the west all the way past Santa Anna and down toward Capistrano it is relatively flat and was before settlement vernal marshes and would be today without all the flood control and drainage. There are areas in the river bottoms that are used to recharge ground water but the problem is where do you put all that water when the rains come it is all most completely built up from Santa Barbara to the north to the Mexican border because when the water comes it comes all at once for a few months only.
    uncle frogy

  34. octopod says

    My bet’s on him having vaguely remembered some long-ago conversation with Devin Nunes about the perennial dam issue in California and then free-associated to the wildfires.

  35. blf says

    Kagehi@27, Thanks for the clarification.

    The concrete river in LA, and the rape of Owens Valley, are indeed major issues — confined largely to LA. Conflating them with “all” of California is highly dubious.

    From memory — and I haven’t been involved with California(-wide) issues since the ’70s — most of the water in the concrete river is storm runoff. It is(? was?) essentially dry much of the year. In addition, being runoff, it is contaminated, mostly, as I recall, with oily residues from streets, and pesticides (presumably from gardens). As such, dumping it into the sea without treatment is itself an issue.

    I have no idea of the volume of runoff, but suspect it is much less than one might think. People, including myself, are often surprised by how little water is needed to create the appearance of “lots” of water, especially in relatively shallow flows like the concrete river.

    The Owens Valley rape is a whole different issue. I am well aware it is an ecological disaster, but admit my knowledge doesn’t really cover that particular stupidity — albeit, from memory, it was(? is?) a broadly-speaking “private” deal by the LA water board (whose name now escapes me). I cannot recall California state‘s position or recommendations.

    This sort-of private water management is actually a big problem. For instance, of those roughly 1500 dams currently in the inventory, a vast majority (from memory, over 1000) are either entirely private or else owned / operated by the “local” water board. My (admitted ancient) memory says the US Army Corps of Engineers considers most of them “unsafe” in various ways, ranging from danger of collapse / breach to significant risk to life should they collapse or be breached. (The Corps is one of my least-favourite agencies, but that is a different matter.)

    Almost all the dams in California were built to early- / mid-20th century earthquake guidelines. And the maintenance since construction has, in general, been dubious. The Lake Isabella dam in Kern County is considered to be one of the most dangerous, built to a poor standard directly over an active fault, and presenting a very large threat to the downstream population should it fail. It is now monitored fairly closely, but for a long time was left to basically rot.