The St. Francis Dam Disaster National Memorial Act has been reintroduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein (both D-California), according to a Harris tweet Thursday.
“This week @SenFeinstein & I reintroduced a bill to establish a national memorial to honor the 431 Californians whose lives were lost in the 1928 St. Francis Dam disaster,” Harris wrote. “This monument will serve as a reminder of the profound consequences of a failure of infrastructure.”
The move to reintroduce the bill, now known as S. 129, as a stand-alone is a hedge in case S. 47, the omnibus Natural Resources Management Act public lands bill introduced Jan. 8 by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), which also includes the St. Francis Dam legislation, is not passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, according to sources close to the process speaking on background.
The original St. Francis Dam Disaster National Memorial Act, HR 2156, was introduced in the House of Representatives in April 2017 by then-Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale).
The bill would establish the St. Francis Dam Disaster National Monument to commemorate the more than 400 people killed after the dam collapsed on March 12, 1928, and encompass the site of the St. Francis Dam National Memorial in San Francisquito Canyon.
HR 2156 passed the House on July 31, 2017. Harris then introduced a companion bill in the Senate, S. 1926, which was co-signed Feinstein.
The Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources adopted S. 1926/HR 2156 by unanimous consent in October 2018, but reduced the dam memorial site’s size from the proposed 440 acres to 353 acres. The bill was not acted upon before the 115th Congressional Session ended in December.
Murkowski’s omnibus Natural Resources Management Act introduced in the 116th Congress on Jan. 8 and Harris’ and Feinstein’s reintroduction of stand-alone bill S. 129 both include the same language for the St. Francis Dam Disaster National Memorial Act as HR 2156/S. 1926 with the same modified 353-acre footprint.
S. 129 was read twice and referred back to the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday.
“I’m so pleased to see this bi-partisan bill moving forward, because the more than 400 people killed deserve to be remembered,” said Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel, president of the Community Hiking Club, one of the nonprofit proponents of the legislation. She and Alan Pollack, president of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, worked to draft the proposed bill.
Erskine-Hellrigel and Pollack are now in their sixth year of attempts to get the legislation through Congress.