Above: California’s fertile Central Valley

The Oroville Lake in northern California is the linchpin of California’s government-run water delivery system, sending water from the Sierra Nevada for agriculture in the fertile Central Valley and for residents and businesses in Southern California. A major disruption to the agricultural sector in the form of a catastrophic dam failure, as could occur with the Oroville Dam, would flood communities, displacing a large number of people for extended periods, as well as significantly disrupting agricultural operations in the northern part of the state.

The negative effect on the U.S. economy would be dramatic. California’s Central Valley is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world, providing more than half of the fruits, vegetables and nuts grown in the United States. California’s agricultural abundance includes more than 400 commodities, making the state the U.S. leader in cash farm receipts. Over a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown in California. Southern California is a major production area for citrus, avocados, subtropical fruits, vegetables, dates and row crops.

A hole in the dam’s emergency spillway has threatened to flood the surrounding area, temporarily displacing some 188,000 area residents The good news is that the situation seems to have stabilized, at least for now. California’s Department of Water Resources said late Tuesday that 125 crews are working around the clock to place 1,200 tons of material per hour on the spillway, the Sacramento Bee reports. Lake Oroville has fallen to 880 feet as of 5 a.m., 21 feet below the lip of the emergency spillway, according to state data. State water officials continue to dump water down the damaged main spillway at a rate of nearly 100,000 cubic feet per second to clear space in the reservoir ahead of upcoming rain. They want to avoid lake levels rising to a point where water heads back over the emergency spillway. Read more HERE, HERE and HERE.

‘Border security’ could take on a whole new meaning: Dan Flynn, editor of Food Safety News, asks whether border restrictions will be as hard to put in place if the U.S. is threatened by the spread of a highly contagious disease. This week, for example, China reported five human deaths from bird flu. The deaths were not caused by human-to-human transmission of the bird flu virus (victims worked with live poultry), but since 77 countries have experienced bird flu outbreaks during the past two years, he said the avian flu is not to be messed with. The epidemics required the destruction of millions of birds, seriously impacting the poultry industry worldwide. Were avian flu or some other contagious disease to begin rapidly spreading around the world, he points out, “border security” could take on a whole new meaning. READ MORE