The site of the St. Francis dam disaster in Saugus is one step closer to becoming a national memorial and monument.
Senate Bill 1926/HR 2156 was unanimously adopted Tuesday morning by the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources with joint staff amendments. The committee’s decision is considered a big win by advocates of the legislation.
The bill would establish a 353-acre St. Francis Dam Disaster National Monument – whittled down from 440 acres by the committee – to commemorate those killed by the collapse of the dam on March 12, 1928 and will encompass the site of the Saint Francis Dam National Memorial in San Francisquito Canyon.
HR 2156, the Saint Francis Dam Memorial Act, was introduced in the House of Representatives in April 2017 by Rep. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale. It cleared the House July 31.
Upon the bill’s passage in the House, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, introduced a companion bill in the U.S. Senate, S. 1926, which was co-signed by her California colleague Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel, who along with Alan Pollack, president of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, worked to draft the proposal of the bill, said Tuesday she was happy with the committee’s decision to move the bill forward.
“I am pleased that it has passed through the committee,” said Erskine-Hellrigel, president of the Community Hiking Club, which is one of the nonprofit proponents of the legislation. “And I’m looking forward to the passage through the Senate and for President Trump to sign it.”
The St. Francis Dam Disaster was the second-deadliest in California and was the nation’s worst civil engineering failure of the 20th Century. An estimated 411 people perished in the Santa Clara River floodplain, and the failure caused millions of dollars in damage to the communities of Santa Clarita Valley, Rancho Camulos, Piru, Fillmore, Bardsdale, Santa Paula, Saticoy and Montalvo.
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.
The bill now heads to the desk of Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, as advocates of the legislation wait for him to bring it to Senate floor for a vote.