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California Real Estate Flooding | Dam Failure Disclosure

Dams are erected to stop flooding, to generate hydroelectric power, and to control rivers, but they can wreak serious havoc if they break, and questions about a property being located in a dam inundation zone are on the rise. While the dam inundation zone may not sound as scary as an earthquake fault zone or a liquefaction zone, many foreign buyers and foreign national investors purchasing real estate in California have shown concerns about the property they want to buy being located in or near dam failure inundation zones.

Why are foreign national real estate investors and home buyers so concerned about dam failure? Consider this: The Three Gorges Dam is a hydroelectric dam that spans the Yangtze River by the town of Sandouping, located in Yiling District, Yichang, Hubei province, China. The Three Gorges Dam is the world's largest power station in terms of installed capacity (22,500 MW), and is arguably the most notorious dam. The massive project has set records for the number of people displaced (more than 1.2 million), number of cities and towns flooded (13 cities, 140 towns, 1,350 villages), and length of reservoir (more than 600 kilometers). The project has allegedly been plagued by corruption, spiraling costs, environmental impacts, human rights violations, and resettlement difficulties.

Potential flooding because of dam failure poses a threat in any part of the world where water has been channeled, dammed, or harnessed, and California is no exception. Why so many dams? Around the middle of the 20th Century, dams were seen as the essence of progress – man harnessing nature to generate power for unlimited real estate development and for converting deserts into farms. So America went on a dam building binge. California has over 1,400 regulated dams – each comes with its own map showing its own source for destructive potential.

Unlike fires and earthquakes, dam failure in California real estate does not happen often - but it has happened in the past and when it does, it can be devastating. Hundreds of dam failures have occurred throughout U.S. history. These failures have caused immense property and environmental damages and have taken thousands of lives. If you are a new homebuyer, you would want to consider the vulnerability of a property to flooding and the cost of the flood insurance the property would require.

On the morning of July 17, 1995, the Folsom Dam failed and 40,000 cubic feet of water per second began pouring out of the filled reservoir at 8:00 a.m. The National Weather Service issued a flash-flood warning for areas along the American River and police and sheriff's’ deputies cleared dozens of people from the river banks and closed nearby roads and parks.

On September 21, 1998, at 5:47 a.m., one of two five million gallon city water storage tanks in the City of Westminster ruptured, sending a six foot high wall of water charging through the community in a raging torrent of fury. Unfortunately, several people were hurt in this calamity, and nearly seventy residents had to be evacuated. Thirty homes were red-tagged, and ten homes were scheduled for demolition. The violent wall of water smashed into living rooms, hoisted vehicles onto garages, and cars and trucks were thrown upon one another.

Effective June 1998, section 8589.4 of the California Government Code Law made the disclosure of Flood and Inundation Zones mandatory in every real estate transaction in the State of California.

Property I.D. Corporation is the premier California real estate information company providing accurate dam inundation natural hazard disclosures. These determinations are based on maps and criteria issued by the Office of Emergency Services and include required local city and county data.


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