In a few years, we’re going to have a lot more earthquake-proof homes and structures, but it’s going to take some time.
A new study from a team at the University of Washington and the California Institute of Technology estimates that the earthquake damage from the Oroville Dam earthquake in 2015 alone will cost $9.5 billion to repair.
That’s about $3.5 trillion in direct damages, the researchers say.
For the Oro-Suis Cañon City region, the total cost will likely be even higher.
The $9 billion figure represents the total costs of repairs to levees, flood gates, and other structures damaged in the dam’s catastrophic collapse.
“It’s an amazing amount of money, and it’s a very important question to ask,” said Dr. Robert H. Leach, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UW who led the study.
“The answer is not, ‘Oh, well, we need to rebuild that.’
It’s, ‘Where is the money going?'”
The researchers analyzed $3 trillion in government spending on infrastructure in the Oro Valley, where about 1.3 million people live.
They also calculated the cumulative costs of building flood gates in Oroville, a dam that was designed to withstand more than a magnitude-9 earthquake.
The study found that the total economic impact of the Dam’s catastrophic failure was $9,099,818, or more than $1 trillion.
Building a dam in a region where earthquakes are rare is risky because the dam is not well designed.
But if the dam had been built in a more stable area, it could have saved tens of billions of dollars in total damages, Leach said.
The dam’s collapse destroyed some 2,700 homes and businesses in the area.
“You could easily see that we could have built a much more resilient structure with less capital investment,” he said.
“That’s an argument for going back to the drawing board and looking at alternative strategies for rebuilding infrastructure in Oro.”
The dam was designed with a high degree of resilience.
The engineers looked at earthquake damage in the region as a function of years of experience with the dam, LeACH said.
If the dam was constructed in a stable area and built with a minimum of capital investment, it should have avoided a catastrophic failure.
But the Oro Dam, built in 1936, was built with only a minimal level of capital.
The team’s analysis found that when considering the economic and environmental costs of the Oro dam’s failure, a number of other factors, including population density, population growth, and urban sprawl, were more important.
“I think the question that we should be asking is, what can we do with less, when we have more?”
“One thing that’s going on is that the dam itself is very resilient, but there are other things that are very fragile, so that’s a challenge that we’re not talking about in the context of rebuilding the Oro.
We need to be thinking more about these other things.”
The study also found that there were other factors at play that contributed to the Dam failure, including the dam being built in the 1950s and 1960s and the dam failure in the 1970s.
The report says that while Oro Dam is “the most robust dam on record,” it could easily have been designed with more modern technologies.
“There are many other dams that could have been built if the economics were right and the design of Oro Dam was the right one,” Leach added.
These are very, very, high-cost structures, and if you look at the numbers, there is an economic cost of those structures that are built today, and that’s not going to be solved.”