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January 12, 1977 - Image 4

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1977-01-12

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Faulty
By ROGER RAPOPORT
Pacific News Service
WHEN IDAHO'S new Teton Dam sprang two
leaks last June 3 the project engineer wasn't
worried - despite earlier warnings by environ-
mentalists and a projected geologist of earthquake
faults riddling the site and of fissures in the north
abutment.
Two days later the dam burst, releasing a 15-
foot wave that swept 75 miles downstream, killing
11 people and destroying thousands of homes and
offices and 100,000 acres of farmland.
Since then the House Committee on Govern-
ment Operations has concluded that the problems
at Teton were no exception.
"A NUMBER OF DAMS now being designed or
cons'ructed have significant safety problems re-
lated to geology, seismicity and design," the com-
mittee said in its report on the Teton disaster. "The
po'ential for tragic losses in lives and property
posed by these dams could be as great or even
greater than the $1 billion damage that resulted
from the failure of the Teton Dam."
Dam building is an imperfect science. While
past experience helps, each new reservoir is, in
a sense, an experiment.
Roger Rapoports a fornier Daily editor, is pre-
sently a San Francisco-based freelance writer whose
articles have appeared in many national maga-
zines.

dam

constructio

But as the House committee points out, govern-
ment authorities have too often insisted on trying
unproven designs in geologically unsafe areas.
According to the Sierra Club, 20,000 of the
49,000 dams in the U.S. are situated in such a way
that failure or malfunction would significantly
imperil life and property.
THE SIERRA CLUB'S Brock Evans contends
that structures like the Ririe Dam near Idaho
Falls, Missouri's Meramec Park. Dam and the
Wolf Creek Dam in Colorado are potentially just
as dangerous as Teton.
Perhaps the greatest risk is in California, where
scores of reservoirs have been created in earth-
quake country.
"Today in central California you've already
got the Folsom, Oroville, Don Pedro, New Hogan,
Pardee and Lake McClure reservoirs all sitting
right on top of the Foothills Fault System," says
one geologist.
"These are big dams. If the Folsom Dam were
to go in a quake, as many as 100,000 people could
be killed in Sacramento by flash flooding."
CORRECTING THE PROBLEM could cost billions
of dollars and also force the state into a drastic
water conservation program that could severely
limit growth.
One trouble with building in quake-prone regions
is that years of study are required to be certain
that a given fault is inactive. Thus seismic ex-

perts urge dam builders to assume that faults
in the vicinity of their construction sites are po-
entially active unless convincing evidence exists to
the contrary.
The devastating San Fernando quake of 1971, for
instance, took place on an obscure Southern Cali-
fornia fault that was presumed dead. Had the
shaking lasted just a few seconds longer, the Van
Norman reservoir would have ruptured and killed
as many as 10,000 people in suburban Los Angeles,
according to U.S. Geological Survey sources.
The same San Fernando earthquake also rais-
ed serious doubts about standard dam construction
practices.
LIKE MANY OTHER hydraulic fill dams across
California, the Van Norman had been built by
pumping in wet mud that solidified as the water
drained out. During the earthquake this filling li-
quified. weakening the dam and nearly causing it
to burst..
As a result, more than $100 million is how
being spent to rebuild, modify or close 14 hydraulic
fill dams in San Diego, Los Angeles, suburban
San Francisco and half a dozen rural areas.
Meanwhile, new problems have developed at sev-
eral construction sites in the Sierra foothills.
Experts recently ran a computer study on the
Auburn dam under construction near Sacramento
to see if the- $850 million project could withstand
a moderate earthquake. After the 685-foot-high
structure flunked the test the California Depart-

plagu
ment of Water Resources said it wanted to see more
extensive tests on seismic activity in the area be-
fore continuing its endorsement of the federal pro-
ject.
NONETHELESS, $15 million worth of prelimin-
ary work is already underway while the outcome
of the tests, not expected to be completed for
another six monhs, is still in doubt.
Perhaps he most dramatic example of the fed-
eral government's willingness to build reservoirs
before all the geologic facts are in is the New
Melones damsite along Iron Canyon on California's
Stanislaus River. Perched in the foothills of the
Sierra Nevada, New Melones is destined to be-
come the second highest earth fill dam in the
U.S.
In a May 1972 Environmental Impact Statement,
the Army Corps of Engineers contended there was
little earthquake risk to its $286 million project:
"The projected area has experienced little seismic
activity in historical times" the statement said.
"The nearest known active fault is the Owens
Valley Fault about 70 miles east of the project."
BUT ACCORDING to 1974 studies by a San Fran-
cisco-based consulting firm, that assessment may
be off by at least 681/2 miles. While conducting sit-
ing tests for a nuclear power plant on the Stan-
islaus River, Woodward-Clyde Consultants discov-
ered two branches of the active Foothills F a u 1 t

es

U.S.

Sys'em in the immediate vicinity of the dam con-
struction site.
The Army Corps of Engineers recently retained
Woodward-Clyde to make further studies. The
firm, which anticipa! es completing its new study
by mid-1977, says it won't know till then whether
New Melones is sitting directly atop a potential
major earthquake.
Meanwhile the Corps is continuing construction
on the dam. Half the project, which began in
1967, is now complete. "All evidence has. shown
the faul's to be inactive," a Corps spokesman told
PNS. "We just want to lay to rest all concerns."
Among geologists familiar with the New Melones
project, those concerns include fears of a dam-
generated holocaust.
"THE BILLION DOLLAR damage caused by the
(Teton Dam) failure would be minor compared
to what a giant New Melones-size dam could do,"
says one scientist who has examined the prob-
lem. "This reservoir holds 12 times as much water
as that one. If it burst, tens of thousands could
die."
"It's crazy to be building more big dams on (the
Foo hills Fault) group before we know what the
real story is geologically," says another geologist.
"You know, earthquake experts like to joke that
the best place to look for a fault is underneath the
nearest dam.
"I'" tell yog one thing " he adds, "I sure am
glad I'm not living downstream."

Eighty-Seven Years of Editorial Freedom
420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Wednesday, January 12, 1977

News Phone: 764-0552

Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan
Public ignored in PBB crisis

Anoth(
By ROGER RAPOPORT
Pacific News Service
IN JUNE 1976 an enthusiastic flock of
government geologists rushed to the
central Sierra foothills to examine an
historic find.
While doing nuclear power plant sit-
ing research for Pacific Gas and Elec-
tric Co., a private consulting firm had
uncovered evidence that local sec-
tions of the Foothills Fault System, long
presumed to be dead, might be very
much alive and capable of producing
major earthquakes.
Scientists from the U. S. Geological
Survey. Nuclear Regulatory Commis-
sion and California Division of Mines
Scientists arrived from Washington,
Denver, Sacramento and Menlo Park
and donned hardhats to inspect the
site.
BUT CONSPICUOUSLY absent were
experts invited from the Army Corps of
Engineers, which was spending about
$4 million a month on construction of
America's second - highest earth - filled
dam just a mile and a half away.

* * *
'r traged
This was not the first time the fed-
eral contractors behind the $286 million
New Melones project had elected to
ignore the firm's expertise.
Eighteen months earlier the Corps
had detained Woodward-Clyde Consult-
ants, then known as Woodward-Lund-
gren Associates, to assess what sort of
shock might hit the New Melones fa-
cilities were an earthquake to occur on
any one of eight faults 60-130 miles
away.
But the consultants' proposal to
study the impact of an earthquake on
three faults at or near the site was
vetoed by Corns administrators.
One of these faults, the New Melones,
passed just three miles unstream
from the dam. A second called the
Bar Mountain passed one-and-a-half
miles downstream. .And a third, known
as the Bostwick Mountain, borders the
site of the 625-foot-high structure, now
half completed.
TlfTH THE New Melones and Bear
ArThntain faults are part of the Foot-
hills Fault System that triggered sig-

in

* *
the

SHOULD MICHIGAN residents be
exposed to increased risk of can-
cer to preserve corporate profits?
Should Michigan farmers suffer dis-
abling illnesses to cover up bureau-
cratic bungling?
Cutting through the self-serving
rhetoric of the state Agriculture De-
partment and chemical agri-business,
these two questions are at issue in
the PBB food contamination contro-
versy.
The Daily says NO; never should
the public health and welfare be
compromised for any special interest,
corporate, bureaucratic or otherwise.
Yet this is exactly what has hap-
pened and continues to happen in the
case of PBB poisoning.
PBB, as readers may recall, is a
highly toxic chemical used as a flame
retardant in clothing.
In 1973, the Michigan Chemical
Corporation accidently shipped PBB
to the Michigan Farm Bureau in
place of a chemical nutrient ordered
by the bureau. The Farm Bureau, in
turn, failed to notice the substitution
and mixed the poison with cattle and
poultry feed sold to farmers across
the state.
AS A RESULT, thousands of farm
animals became sick and died, while
farmers and heavy consumers of con-
taminated animal products began to
report mysterious nervous, joint and
skin disorders.
For a year, farmers' complaints
were ignored by the state Department
of Agriculture.
Since 1974, despite farmers' com-
plaints and scientific data linking
PBB with cancer in animals, the Ag-
riculture department has consistent-
ly opposed measures to lower PBB
tolerance levels in food to a point
scientists agree is safe -- that is, no
PBB at all. The state legislature has

also failed to act.
Adequate funds were never ap-
propriated to compensate farmers for
their losses and provide rehabilita-
tion for the effects of PBB poison-
ing.
For two and a half years, the Gov-
ernor's office and the Agriculture
Department- delayed an in-depth stu-
dy of the effects of PBB on humans.
Dr. Irving Selikoff, a nationally-
reknown environmental health re-
searcher, was denied a pro-forma in-
vitation from state officials to car-
ry out his own federally funded re-
search on PBB.
His study, finally released last
week,confirmed the worst. One third
of a thousand people heavily exposed
to PBB were found to suffer some
physical disability, ranging from skin
disfigurement to permanent central
nervous system damage.
Maybe this report will belatedly
produce the strong measures to deal
with PBB that were needed two or
three years ago.
Most of the damage has unfortu-
nately already been done. PBB is in
the state food chain, and is likely
to remain for some time to come.
,As long as agencies like the Agri-
culture Department place the corpor-
ate interests of the industry they reg-
ulate and their own bureaucratic self-
interests before the public welfare,
there is nothing to stop another PBB-
like crisis from striking the state.
TODAY'S STAFF:
News: Elaine Fletcher, Tim Schick, Stu
McConnell, Barb Zahs, Liz Slowik,
Shelley Wolson, Lori Carruthers,
Elaine Elson, Joan Chartier
Editorial Page: Steve Kursman, David
Goodman, Rob Meachum
Arts Page: Lois Josimovich
Photo Technician: Chris Schneider

nificant earthquakes at Chico in 1940
and again in 1975 at Oroville.
In a 1972 Environmental Impact
Statement, the Corps had discounted
the chances of seismic activity along
these faults.
But after refusing to map the local
faults out beyond the site boundary
and finally blocking its own consult-
ants from making an independent
evaluation of the rift, the Corps has
now decided to rehire the Woodward-
Cl-de firm for more tests. The firm
says it won't know the seismic potential
of the area until mid-1977.
As <Joe Sciandrone, chief of the foun-
dation materials branch for the Corns'
Sacrramento district, puts it, "In
retrosnect it woild have been worth-
while to have obtained that data ear-
li-r to hae a better understanding
of the Foothills Fault System in that
area."
BUT THE CORPS only wants Wood-
wird-Clyde to look at the Melones and
Bear Mountain fauls, and not the Bost-
wick Mountain or Powerhouse fault

*
works?
zones. "Those are dead features," Sci-
androne says.
If there were an earthquake, however,
the risk at New Melones is especially
high. According to geologists, the dam
is being built without some of the
safeguards used on other kinds of
dams.
It is technically impossible to sub-
ject rockfill dams like New Melones
to the same kind of earthquake safety
test (known as dynamic response analy-
. sis) used with concrete dams.
And rockfill dams can themselves
stimulate seismic activity. According to
U. S. Geological Survey scientist Barry
Rayleigh, the pressure of reservoirs
themselves has triggered earthquakes
in at least a dozen places - including
the state of Nevada and the countries
of Greece, Rhodesia, Brazil, Spain, Swit-
zerland, India, France and Russia.
"Big proiects like Melones are a
hieher risk because they expose a wider
area of potential faults to earthquake-
inducing pressure," Rayleigh adds.
"The higher the dam the higher the
fluid pressure."

U.S. split on S oviet,

China relations

By BANNING GARRETT
Pacific News Service
OjN THE EVE OF Jimmy Carter's inauguration, key
Carter advisers are saying privately that the
President-elect and his national security appointees
have alreadymishandled the critical triangular diplo-
macy with the Soviet Union and China.
These advisers fear that the early policy emphasis
on U.S.-Soviet relations has been formulated without
consultation with Carter's China advisers - and may
undermine U.S.-China ties.
They point to the lopsided attention given U.S. rela-
tions with the Soviet Union, including Carter's expres-
sed hopes for early U.S.-Soviet agreements on nuclear
arms and a summit with Soviet leader Leonid Brez-
hnev this year.
Last month, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter's top nation-
al security adviser, reaffirmed the new administration's
commitment to pursue U.S.-Soviet detente in a man-
ner that is "more reciprocal and . . . progressively
becomes more comprehensive."
On the other hand, sources note that the few com-
ments by Carter and his inner circle of foreign policy
advisers concerning China have been limited to cautious
statements on eventual normalization of relations wih
Peking. At the same time, spokesmen for the new
administration have reaffirmed the U.S. defense com-
mitments to Taiwan, a sore point in the U.S.-China
relations.
MANY OBSERVERS attribute this emphasis on rela-
tions with the Soviet Union to the heavy influence of
members of the Trilateral Commission in the Carter Ad-
ministration. They include Carter himself, as well as
Brzezinski, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, Secre-
tary of Defense.Harold Brown, Vice President Walter
Mondale and other advisers and intimates.
The Trilateral Commission, an independent group of
politicians, scholars and businessmen, has supported
a foreign policy based on a functioning alliance be-
tween the U.S., Western Europe and Japan (hence,
"Trilateral"). At the same time, it has emphasized
detente with the Soviet Union to defuse the threat
of Russian military power.
Commission members have traditionally been wary
of the Nixon-Ford policy of emphasizing triangular
diplomacy in which the opening to China has been used
to pressure Moscow.
National security analysts are now concerned that
such a shift toward the Trilateral position could dam-
age the new U.S.-China relationship.
Chinese leaders, they fear, may decide the U.S. is an
unreliable friend and either withdrew into isolation
from both superpowers or move to ease relations with
Moscow. In either case, the global balance of power
could be seriously altered in ways Washington consid-
ers unfavorable.
Among the possible repercussions:
-.1J L'... n n A o- rrh i.eo. V - TT C'

forces in Eastern Europe. Some analysts believe it
could also free Soviet divisions now stationed along the
Sino-Soviet border for redeployment in Eastern Europe.
t Such a shift could end the common U.S.-Chinese
goal of limiting the Soviet initiative in southern Af-
rica, where all three powers are jockeying for influence.
9 And while U.S. strategists do not consider China
a nuclear threat to the U.S., a rebuffed China could put
more pressure on the U.S. by developing and deploying
the 7000-mile range ICBM that has already been tested
as a satellite launching rocket.
Despite these possibilities, most analysts agree the
Chinese channel to the West will remain open, at least
for commercialtrade and technology, much of which
only the West can supply.
flUT CHINESE LEADERS can take little encourage-
ment from the new administration's policy state-
ments on U.S.-China relations.
Carter recently told Time magazine he felt no
"urgency about resolving the differences that exist
between the Mainland (China) and Taiwan. I would
go into that very cautiously." he said.
In December, Secretary Vance told Newsweek he
plans to normalize relations with Peking - but slow-
ly. He added that he thinks it is essential for the U.S.
to ensure the security of Taiwan, and that he favors
another high-level round of negotiations with Chinese
leaders "to feel each other out."
To counter these negative impressions, Carter's China
advisers are expected to urge him to find ways to sig-
nal Peking that the U.S. does want to improve rela-
tions, even if not to the extent of speedy normalization.
One of these ways, publicly advocated by Carter China
advisers Michael Oksenberg and Jerome Cohen, and
also supported by the new energy czar, James Schles-
inger, would be, to continue the policy of approving sal-
es of military-related technology to China.
They argue that an even-handed policy between Mos-
cow and Peking will not be upset by a quiet effort to
help China improve its military posture vis-a-vis the
Soviets. Such a policy, they argue, could also pay off
Chinese leaders for their opening to the West, and
prevent a limited Sino-Soviet detente that could be
worked out through the recently renewed border talks
in Peking.
Schlesinger will be in a position to press his views by
virtue of his anticipated role as head of a new energy
department that would combine the Federal Energy

Agency and the Energy Research and Development
Agency (ERDA).
ERDA's responsibility for nuclear warhead develop-
ment and production will give Schlesinger at least a
peripheral involvement in the Strategic Arms Limita-
tion Talks (SALT), which are expected to dominate
U.S.-Soviet relations early in 1977. Yet the same re-
sponsibility could silence Schlesinger as a public critic
of U.S.-Soviet detente, a prospect that cannot please
the Chinese.
OBSERVERS AGREE that the key to U.S.-Soviet pro-
gres will be a breakthrough in the stalled SALT
talks.
AfterLeonid Brezhnev conveyed to the new Presidefit
in November that the Soviet Union had no intention
of testing him, Carter responded by promising to move
"aggressively to get the SALT talks off dead center."
Carter laid the blame for the stalled SALT negotia-
tions squarely on Washington and said he shared the
Soviet leader's desire for peace, nuclear disarmament
and reduction in conventional weapons.
The Soviets have also expressed interest in propos-
als by the United Nations Association-USA for conven-
tional arms controls and limitations on military spend-
ing. Cyrus Vance is vice-chairman of the private, pro-
UN group, which sent a delegation to Moscow in
November.
But while grounds for improved relations exist, there
may be conflict ahead in other areas of Soviet-Ameri-
can relations. Chief among these could be Soviet de-
mands for elimination of the Jackson Amendment of
1974 which linked most-favored-nation status and trade
credits for the USSR to freer emigration for Soviet
Jews.
The Soviets apparently view trade as the number
two priority (after SALT) on the agenda, and they com-
plain that the restric' ions under the Jackson Amend-
ment constitute interference in their internal affairs.
The Soviets are supported in their demand by U.S.
multinational corporations and banks because of the
loss in trade, which Business Week says amounts to $1
billion, "mostly to competitors in other industrialized
countries offering cheap credits."
But Carter and Vance have indicated they intend
to link improvements in trade relations with the
Soviets to better implementation of the Helsinki agree-
ment's provisions for free movement of people and
ideas between East and West.

ii

1

Letters to The Daily

the lives inside. Pedestrians are
certainly endangered - side-

financial loses worth the risks
plus the costs envolved in snow-

0I

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