Talk:St. Francis Dam

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Former featured article candidate St. Francis Dam is a former featured article candidate. Please view the links under Article milestones below to see why the nomination failed. For older candidates, please check the archive.
March 1, 2004 Featured article candidate Not promoted


In the "Sabotage" section, the first paragraph says the dam was dynamited several times, and the second paragraph says there was one dynamite threat and fortunately the dam was never dynamited. Which is it? Tempshill 05:25, 12 Mar 2004 (UTC)

The dam was never dynamited while in use. There was one threat to dynamite the dam. On the first paragraph in the Sabotage section, please read again - the Los Angeles Aqueduct was dynamited in 1927, not St. Francis Dam.

I've revised Prelude to failure to reflect that dynamiting was done for the new road on the east side, not to make or improve the dam itself. Hope I've been helpful. Any questions, please ask me at my talk page. Thanks! --avnative 21:24, Sep 2, 2004 (UTC)


Geology was most certainly not a new science in 1928, it was already very old when Agricola published De Re Metallica in 1556. User:Herdrick Sep 29, 2004.

The text doesn't say the science of geology was new, just that it was not as advanced as it is today, which is certainly plausible. Moreover, this really concerns geologic engineering, which is a distinct though related discipline. I'd like to see much more detail here. Unfortunately, my county library doesn't have any of the cited books. (I think that with some work this article could be a featured article.) --Kbh3rd 14:16, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Right, it doesn't say that now because I fixed it. I guess I should've just fixed it and not commented. Be Bold and all that. User:Herdrick Jan 27, 2005.
The book by the Mulholland daughter is supposed to be great - I've only read the reviews. Regarding developing into a Featured Article: The story of the motorcycle cop is quite compelling. And the Mulholland story could be developed slightly - his admission of guilt and retirement in disgrace. I bet there's a few more PD pictures we could add, and a map of the drainage. Yes, this could be a great little article. -Willmcw 09:01, 27 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Musical reference[edit]

FWIW Frank Black has a song titled the st. francis dam disaster which chronicles the events.


On the failiure section, is there such a thing as a, "Paleomegalandslide"? I think its a typo, just makin' sure- The Mischief Man 11-1-05

Good question. Anytime I see something like that I wonder too. I did a Google search and found this article, dated 2001, which uses the term. [1]. So if it's a neologism, at least we're not responsible for making it up. Seeing as it is a redlink, we might go put in a request for an article. In fact, I just did so here: Wikipedia:Requested articles/Natural Sciences -Willmcw 02:07, 2 November 2005 (UTC)


While searching for the term paleomegalandslide, I came across this page, which seems to be exactly the same: [2] 23:16, 8 February 2006 (UTC)

Yes, it is the same. It even says so: "From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." It is one of the Wikipedia:mirrors. Part of being a free encyclopedia is that we allow anyone to copy our info, so long as they give credit. Thanks for caring. Cheers, -Will Beback 23:30, 8 February 2006 (UTC)
I see. I will revert what has been changed. I missed the "From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." line below the title. 03:28, 9 February 2006 (UTC)


Hello. I like this article. I wonder if we can find a map of the dam site and the flooded area. I'm not familiar enough with LA geography to know where are all the places mentioned. Keep up the good work, Wile E. Heresiarch 02:44, 3 April 2006 (UTC)

It should be easy enough to find or produce a PD map of the site and the area. I might do that, though I may not have the time for a week or two. I've seen somewhere on the Internet (maybe by following those links in the article?) some engineering maps that show the extent of the flooded area. Those would not be available for use in Wikipedia unless they're by a government that places its work into the public domain by statute, such as the federal U.S. government. (I don't know about California's government.) Note also that work for a government by an outside contractor, rather than by the government, is not necessarily in the public domain. --Kbh3rdtalk 20:37, 3 April 2006 (UTC)

In the article about William Mulholland Wikipedia states that 450 was the final count of those who died. In this article, 600 is noted. Hmmm?


The word "paleomegalandslide" found in this section of the article sounds like something someone made up in school one day. Can anyone confirm the existence of this word? Thanks, (talk) 17:21, 18 April 2008 (UTC)

Probably half of the scientific and technical words we use were made up. For a reference on this one, see [3], quoting "Man Made Disaster at an Old Landslide Dam Site: A Day in the Field with Thomas Dibblee and J. David Rogers, St. Francis Dam area, May 17, 1997." Rogers is presumably this geologist: [4]. It all looks proper. ·:· Will Beback ·:· 19:36, 18 April 2008 (UTC)

I searched for the word and found that this word is used only in relation to this dam disaster. It should be a made up word. It is also a meaningless word in this context. Paleo-old/ancient what can ancient megalandslide do in a dam? — Preceding unsigned comment added by DrHaroonAshraf (talkcontribs) 18:38, 29 November 2011 (UTC)

A word which appears in Rock mechanics: proceedings of the 35th U.S. Symposium is clearly a legitimate scientific word, describing a situation quite relevant to the dam's failure. Beyond My Ken (talk) 01:11, 30 November 2011 (UTC)

See also[edit]

Is the See also section supposed to grow to include a link to every other failed dam? I think the category link to dam disasters at the bottom of the page is sufficient for all but any (are there any?) that are particularly relevent to this particular instance. --Kbh3rdtalk 17:35, 21 May 2009 (UTC)

Cleaning this section, again. I've added a link to dam failure that includes a growing list of failed dams that should take up most of the slack I've created in this section; this makes it especially unecessary to list every failed reservoir in history and beyond. Here is my reasoning for what I've removed and what I left:
* Baldwin Hills Reservoir is in the same area and therefore may also be of particular interest to readers on the south-left coast.
* Malpasset Dam because its failure was apparently due to the insuitable geology of the site, as was the case with the St. Francis Dam.
* Teton Dam because it also failed due to insuitable geology at the dam site.
* Vajont Dam because the incident was caused by a landslide of unstable hillside, and the St. Francis failure was due to an unstable hillside of paleo-landslide.
* Buffalo Creek Flood because its construction and mode of failure were entirely dissimilar.
* Castaic Dam, Castaic, and Castaic Lake: the dam is already mentioned and linked in the article; the others are peripheral and can be explored by following the existing Castaic Dam link.
* Johnstown Flood because its construction and cause of failure were different; the only similiarity is that the dam height had been raised, but that was well after construction, and not done by the original designer during construction. I'm willing to bend on this one given a good, stiff arguement.
* Kelly Barnes Dam because nothing in the article indicates similarity in construction or mode of failure.
* Taum Sauk pumped storage plant because nothing is similar between the two structures or their cause of failure.
--Kbh3rdtalk 02:53, 29 August 2009 (UTC)

Death toll?[edit]

The intro to this article states without references that more than 600 people died in this needs a citation or it should be deleted

This reference "Remembering the St. Francis Dam - 80 Years Later" states it was 450 with 42 children noted in the William Mulholland article.

The top of the article has the ref tag but what this page really needs is a motivated editor to remove what is unverifiable, contradictory or wrong. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:50, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

Incomplete section[edit]

The Investigation of the failure section ends with:

With most of the basic questions as to the cause seemingly answered, the experts turned their attention toward speculating on the sequence of events as the dam failed with its reservoir filled. This turned out to be another area were they had handicapped themselves without the important information which would later be brought to light at the Coroner's Inquest.

This naturally raises the question of what was wrong with their speculation that the inquest later corrected, which is unanswered. howcheng {chat} 16:23, 11 March 2013 (UTC) _______________________________________________________________

You are correct and thank you for pointing that out, I will remove that. Imveracious (talk) 20:23, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

Removal of unsupported material added to sourced content[edit]

In the section Planning and design, the paragraph as written at present [The surprising part of this early geologic exploration is that Mulholland either misjudged or ignored the perilous nature of the schist on the eastern side of the canyon and the crumbliness of the reddish sandstone conglomerate on the western side. Not that he was not well aware of it, as he wrote of its treacherous characteristics in his report to the Board of Public Works in 1911] contains unsupported content. This content being, "and the crumbliness of the reddish sandstone conglomerate on the western side." This was added after the paragraph was placed and referenced. Although the editor provided a citation, the supporting section of that citation is what he has written as a note in the References. Nowhere is a mention of this "crumbliness of the reddish sandstone conglomerate on the western side" there or is any be found on the page number which is written. I propose that either a citation which supports the addition be added or removal of the unsupported material and non-supporting citation. Imveracious (talk) 16:13, 13 October 2013 (UTC)

The editor above wishes to WP:OWN this article, and regularly removes content that he has not added. The source of the material I add, the book Water and Power, is a standard work on the history of the LA Department of Water and Power, and is an extremely reliable source. The supporting material is directly quoted in the citation, and shows that it is correctly placed and integrated into the section. Beyond My Ken (talk) 16:19, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
While it may be a reliable resource elsewhere, where is there any mention of "and the crumbliness of the reddish sandstone conglomerate on the western side? Imveracious (talk) 16:36, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
Please indent your comments - you've been around long enough to know that. The material stands on its own as sourced by two reliable sources. Beyond My Ken (talk) 16:46, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
Please leave your false accusations, condescending attitude and remarks off the talk page. Simply because you have a 'reliable source' is not enough. It does not address the statement of a FACT to which you attribute it. Imveracious (talk) 17:08, 13 October 2013 (UTC)

I'm looking at that page and it says what you wrote in notes but I don't see anything about the redish sandstone or west side. Maybe it's on a different page? Shyncat (talk) 18:18, 13 October 2013 (UTC)

The source I added said that the redstone was crumbly. It was the source that Imveracious added that said that the redstone was on the west side. This is why that statement is cited to both sources. Beyond My Ken (talk) 18:54, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
You've got me confused you took 2 statemnts and made 1 out of it or? I can tell you for sure I don't see anything about crumbly rock or redstone on the page and I'm looking at it right now. I even looked at the notes on the page where it says 1911 and that says to see a report. Shyncat (talk) 19:30, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
Well, it appears that I was confused as well, and that I was mistaken about the crumbliness of the redstone conglomerate being part of the quote from Water and Power. My apologies to Imveracious. I am going into the article now to correct my error and move the W&P information to its proper place. Beyond My Ken (talk) 20:15, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
It's ok, it happens to all of us every so often. Thank You Shyncat (talk) 20:25, 13 October 2013 (UTC)

Moonrise on March 12, 1928 was when dam failed[edit]

My following observation may not add anything of great scientific value to the article, but the coincidence IS interesting to ponder. Tides are caused by the moon's gravitational pull on the earth, and "earth tides", as opposed to ocean tides, are a known phenomenon associated with earthquakes and other localized disturbances of the earth, such as landslides. According to the United States Naval Observatory website for determining sun and moon data the time of moonrise on March 12, 1928 at Newhall, California, is given as 11:59 PM, more or less the same time as the estimated dam failure. The maximum gravitational pull exerted by the moon at that exact location occurred five hours later at 5:07 AM (the time of moon transit), but if an earth tide contributed to when the dam failed, that failure happening at moonrise may not be a coincidence. Linstrum (talk) 03:11, 15 February 2014 (UTC)

Two motorcycle police officers who awakened those in harm's way[edit]

There is a memorial in Santa Paula, California, to the two motorcycle police officers who gave the alarm that the floodwaters from the failed Saint Francis Dam were coming. California State Highway Department police officer Thornton Edwards and Santa Paula City police officer Stanley Baker saved hundreds of lives by giving the early morning alarm to awaken those who were in the path of the approaching flood. I have several jpg format photos of the memorial sculpture I personally took if anyone wants to add a section about what they did to save lives. Linstrum (talk) 03:58, 15 February 2014 (UTC)

They are mentioned in the paragraph which begins with-"Santa Clara River Valley telephone operator Louise Gipe---" You could upload the pictures to Wiki Commons St. Francis Dam

Thanks Imveracious (talk) 15:59, 15 February 2014 (UTC)

St. Francis Dam#Economic collapse in Owens Valley[edit]

Not sure why this section was in the article; though the aqueduct is certainly related to Owens Valley, what bearing does the Owens Valley economic collapse have on the St. Francis Dam? --jpgordon::==( o ) 15:15, 16 June 2014 (UTC)

OK, Shyncat stuck the stuff about the Owens Valley economic collapse back into the article. What does that have to do with the St. Francis Dam (some 150 miles away) other than it's on the same aqueduct? --jpgordon::==( o ) 17:03, 16 June 2014 (UTC)
Not all of it but what I did ties in the information before, why the dynamiting stopped and acts as a lead to the next section about the dam as the reservoir level rose again "although not without incident." As it was the section seemed flat and lost the continuity that it had. Shyncat (talk) 17:36, 16 June 2014 (UTC)
Yeah...perhaps just the first and last paragraphs are needed there, since the details of the Inyo County Bank connection are well spelled out in California Water Wars. --jpgordon::==( o ) 18:31, 16 June 2014 (UTC)

Grunsky NPOV issue[edit]

Consensus appears to be for retaining the paragraph, but probably with a bit of a rewrite. Number 57 22:25, 28 December 2014 (UTC)
The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

The last paragraph of the "Investigation of the failure" section, beginning with "As insightful and informative as was their investigation..." has some serious problems. Besides being poorly written and difficult to understand, it is giving opinions about Grunsky's investigation in Wikipedia's voice. If this is indeed the accepted opinion that is one thing, but usually this sort of thing is attributed in article otherwise it is a breach of WP:NPOV. This also does not really seem to belong in this section, it is more concerned with "Analysis" under which section Grunsky's report is already discussed. I suggest the material should be merged in there. SpinningSpark 17:39, 11 November 2014 (UTC)

I do not believe it to be NPOV, it is there so as to serve as a comparison in keeping with that it was a differing opinion of the time. Imveracious (talk) 18:42, 11 November 2014 (UTC)
It isn't neutral because you have not just stated Grunsky's differing opinion, you have also given a critique of Grunsky's report as if that is Wikipedia's opinion. It should be worded like "modern expert X believes Grunsky's claim Y is wrong because of Z" or something along those lines. We should not be saying ourselves that Grunsky was wrong. Grunsky's report belongs in this section, but any modern critique of Grunsky belongs in the Analysis section. SpinningSpark 19:14, 11 November 2014 (UTC)
What is written is neither my opinions or a critique, this entire matter is contained within the reference given. Thanks Imveracious (talk) 19:38, 11 November 2014 (UTC)
Of course it is a critique. Comments like "their theory...becomes much less probable" and "It is also questionable..." are passing comment on Grunsky, not just presenting his views, thus it is a critique. It is the presentation of this in Wikipedia's voice as if it were undisputed fact that is the problem here, not so much that it is in the article per se. SpinningSpark 21:32, 11 November 2014 (UTC)

Should the following paragraph be allowed to remain in the article to serve as a fair comparison or should it be deleted as POV in Wikipedia's voice. SpinningSpark 16:56, 17 November 2014 (UTC)

Although this investigation was insightful and informative the theory, as do others which hypothesized an appreciably increasing amount of seepage just prior to the failure, becomes less likely when it is compared against the eyewitness accounts of the conditions in the canyon and near the dam during the last thirty minutes before its collapse.[1] Added to this as Grunsky hypothesized, though failed to explain, is the action of the dam tilting as he described. This action would have the dam in motion as a singular unit while conversely, testimony given at the Coroner's Inquest indicates that the dam was fractured transversely in at least four places. Furthermore the two cracks, which bordered each side of the standing center section, would have served as hinges to prevent this.[2]


  1. ^ Coroner's Inquest 1928, pp. 642-644.
  2. ^ Outland 2002, pp. 209-212.
  • Remove. The opinions given here are taken from the book of the author Outland but are given in Wikipedia's voice without establishing that this is the generally accepted view. Further, they are inappropriately in the section on the contemporary investigation whereas Outland is a modern author. Outland's views are already discussed in the analysis section and are there properly attributed to him so we don't need this as well. SpinningSpark 16:56, 17 November 2014 (UTC)
  • Retain It adds to the balance of the section and helps to clarify the differing ideas. Niki Goss (talk) 20:31, 17 November 2014 (UTC)
  • Retain This is the accepted view and this is not already discussed in the Analysis section. Outland's views mentioned only concern a possible eastern abutment failure scenario Imveracious (talk) 22:41, 17 November 2014 (UTC)
  • Retain It could use some rewriting to sound less like OR, but it shouldn't be removed. Chris Troutman (talk) 01:58, 18 November 2014 (UTC)
  • Retain I don't find any problems with it or any need to remove it. Shyncat (talk) 15:40, 18 November 2014 (UTC)
  • Retain but cite the sources... 'according to the coroner' and at the very least "...though failed to explain according to Outland". I do see how it seems like OR in its current form. Overall, the section adds balance.--NortyNort (Holla) 21:14, 18 November 2014 (UTC)
  • Retain. The bot sent me. Keep the material, but rewrite it to cite the sources, as Norty suggests. "According to witness accounts. . ." and "According to the coroner. . ." etc. In this way it's the sources doing the talking and alleviates any suggestion of OR. SW3 5DL (talk) 19:16, 25 November 2014 (UTC)
  • Remove. I dunno whether it is due weight, but it at least needs to be rewritten to avoid the original research. Insightful and informative? That's completely unwarranted editorializing. In fact, I'd probably just remove it. If someone wants to write a version that complies with Wikipedia's policies, then they can attempt to do so. The current version is unacceptable. NinjaRobotPirate (talk) 00:19, 30 November 2014 (UTC)
  • Retain I don't see how it seems like OR in it's current form but a little rework maybe. Overall, I think the section adds balance. DavidCarson73 (talk) 16:30, 30 November 2014 (UTC)
  • Comment. Here's the issue I've got, I would happily rework the material myself if I had access to the source, but I don't, so I have no way of knowing if that is what Outland truly said. This dispute began with me just tagging the problematic passage, but the tag was edit warred out. If the user won't even accept a tag, they are not likely to accept reworking in any case, which is why I am calling for it to be removed (at least in its present form). SpinningSpark 17:33, 1 December 2014 (UTC)
  • Comment The problem is as user Spinningspark wrote, though properly cited from the beginning, this user can not/will not take the time to find the reference and read it for himself. This would end this in a flash if this person would just take the time to do so. In not having this reference to properly access what an editor has written and attributed such to, for myself, I believe the the best thing would have been to do nothing until I did. How can anyone challenge what they themselves do not know? Spinningspark, your tag was "According to whom" ; one editor removed it, leaving a comment. You undid that edit, I tried to rewrite it and you then removed the entire paragraph, including the citation and changed your objection to "POV in Wikipedia's voice." There is no OR here or any other voice than that of the referenced material. I, as many, have the book and have read it and believe that the paragraph reflects well what the author has written. I have no problem with improvement of what is stated though you have asked for a consensus for it to be removed, I believe you see the results. Imveracious (talk) 16:42, 2 December 2014 (UTC)
  • Retain and rewrite I believe that the text is necessary but it can be rewritten with less biased and opinionated language. -_Rsrikanth05 (talk) 07:12, 12 December 2014 (UTC)

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.


Here is a new source for the article: Human Factors in Dam Failures by Ifab A. Alvi. Mattise135 (talk) 16:16, 31 May 2017 (UTC)

Anonymous account reverting others' edits[edit]

There is an anonymous account that is getting logged as only IP addresses that seems to be reverting many additions to this article. Please, if you are going to remove the work others put into this article, have the courtesy to create an account so a discussion can be had on the content you are removing. Epolk (talk) 09:16, 8 September 2017 (UTC)