After several years of setbacks and stalls in Congress, the Saint Francis Dam Disaster National Memorial and National Monument bill cleared the U.S. Senate on Tuesday as part of a bigger bipartisan lands package.
S. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act, introduced Jan. 8 by Sen. Lisa Murkoswki, R-Alaska, chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, received overwhelming bipartisan support with a 92-2 vote.
An amalgamation of more than 100 small, local bills, the overall package would create more than 1.3 million acres of wilderness out West, add three national park units and expand several others.
In the Santa Clarita Valley, it would establish a 353-acre memorial at the St. Francis Dam site in San Francisquito Canyon, about seven miles north of Copper Hill Drive in Saugus. The memorial is to honor the estimated 411 victims who were killed March 12-13, 1928, in the worst civil engineering failure of the 20th Century.
The House of Representatives must take up the lands bill before it can advance to President Trump to be signed into law. House passage is expected.
The dam disaster memorial site, located on already federally owned land, is to be managed by the U.S. Forest Service. A future visitor’s center would be built and paid for with private funding.
Under the legislation, construction of the memorial is to include consultations with “appropriate federal agencies, state tribal and local governments, including the Santa Clarita City Council and the public.” It will also consider recommendations from the St. Francis Disaster National Memorial Foundation, the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society and the Community Hiking Club of Santa Clarita.
The Senate passage comes on the heels of U.S. Rep. Katie Hill’s, D-Agua Dulce, first piece of legislation, H.R. 1015, introduced last week, which mirrors the dam memorial language in S. 47. Hill’s bill is a companion to legislation introduced by Sens. Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein, D-California.
The standalone bills are a backup in case the larger land package does not become law. The dam memorial language is identical.
Similar standalone bills were introduced in prior congressional sessions by former U.S. Reps. Howard “Buck” McKeon and Steve Knight, who previously represented the area. Bills that do not become law by the end of each two-year congressional session die and must be reintroduced if they are to move forward.
The St. Francis Dam Disaster was the second-deadliest disaster in California after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. In addition to leaving an estimated 411 victims in its wake, the failure caused millions of dollars in damage to the communities of the Santa Clarita Valley, Rancho Camulos, Piru, Fillmore, Bardsdale, Santa Paula, Saticoy and Montalvo as the flood waters made their way to the Pacific Ocean near Oxnard.
William Mulholland, head of the Los Angeles Bureau of Water Works and Water Supply, now known as the LADWP, oversaw construction of the dam. He resigned as a result of its failure.
To view the full text of the omnibus lands bill, click [here].
Learn more about the dam failure at [SaintFrancisDam.com].