Since she was sworn in on January 3, new California Congress member and (repeatedly) noted millennial, Katie Hill, has been all over the place. She was a loud voice in the call to end the shutdown, she’s been assigned to serve on a slew of committees—House Oversight (of which she’s vice chair); Science, Space, and Technology; Armed Services—and, just the other day, she made news for her early endorsement of Kamala Harris for president.
The dynamic, young, first-time legislator is charging forward, but not without looking back. Her team announced today that the first piece of legislation she’s introducing is a bill to commemorate the St. Francis Dam breach, a disaster that killed hundreds of people in 1928 but isn’t widely known about. We broke it down back in 2014:
In the late 1920s, Mulholland designed and oversaw construction of the dam, which was intended to store Aqueduct water. He chose Santa Clarita’s San Francisquito Canyon as its location due to the canyon’s natural bowl-shape and proximity to the Aqueduct. With characteristic bravado, Mulholland decided midway through the project to add an additional twenty feet of height to the dam wall without widening the base. This brought the dam to a capacity of 38,000 acre-feet—about 2,400,000 bathtubs of water.
On March 12, 1928, St. Francis was filled to capacity for the first time. Mulholland inspected the dam and gave it his stamp of approval, despite mud in the water and other possible signs of a leaky foundation. As it turned out, the structure was indeed faulty. Mere hours after Mulholland’s assessment, the dam burst, sending water throttling down the canyon and into nearby communities. According to Water and Power Associates, it only took 70 minutes for all 12.4 billion gallons to drain out of the reservoir. Over 450 lives were lost as a result. “I envy those who are dead,” Mulholland said at a coroner’s inquest days after the disaster. “We must have missed something.”
Hill’s bill (fun to say), which will establish a memorial at the dam site, isn’t just about commemorating a tragedy for the families of the dead—it’s about reminding modern Californians about the importance of sound infrastructure. In a statement Hill says, “The St. Francis Dam Disaster took place 10 miles north of what is now my hometown of Santa Clarita. In honor of the hundreds of lives lost, this Memorial will uplift the stories of the tragedy and serve as a constant reminder that our infrastructure is deeply important to our community safety and security.”
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