Oroville Dam scare prompts evacuation of 180,000 people

February 13, 2017

Oroville Dam emergency floodway (left) and main floodway (right). Photo: Gonzalo (Peewee) Curiel

More than 180,000 Northern California residents received evacuation orders Sunday over fears that the emergency spillway at the Oroville Dam will fail and possibly cause massive flooding. [Oroville MR]

The Oroville Dam, which is 770 feet high, is the tallest dam in the United States. On the north side of the dam lies the emergency spillway structure, which is a concrete lip on a hill above a diversion pool.

A hole developed in the emergency spillway, and water cascaded down a dirt ravine, according to the State Department of Water Resources. Erosion appears to be spreading up toward the emergency spillway structure.

If the enlarging chasm undercuts the structure, the emergency spillway could fail resulting in the water behind the barrier coming down the hill uncontrollably into the diversion pool and down the Feather River. That would set the stage for the possibility of massive flooding into Oroville and communities farther south.

The main spillway, which lies to the side of the emergency spillway, is damaged as well. Still, workers increased the water flow through the main spillway to 100,000 cubic feet per second in attempt to more quickly lower the lake level. The lake level dropped one foot over a three-hour span Sunday evening, and water stopped flowing over the emergency spillway.

Evacuation orders affected Oroville and communities south of the city. Oroville is a city of about 16,000 people and the seat of Butte County.

Authorities evacuated the Butte County Jail and Juvenile Hall. On Monday, most Butte County schools are closed, as is Butte College.

Officials instructed residents to evacuate north to Chico, where hundreds of evacuees were welcomed at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds. The Chico Elks Lodge, Neighborhood Church and other organizations also opened up to evacuees.

The evacuations caused gridlock on highways out of Oroville, Marysville and Yuba City. Several highways were eventually closed, and there were long lines at gas stations.

Authorities have not lifted evacuation orders, as of Monday morning.







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9 Comments

  1. horse_soldier says:

    No money to repair a dam, but always a way to come up with money for the train.
    Our elected officials need to be held accountable.

    (18) 22 Total Votes - 20 up - 2 down
    • Rambunctious says:

      If the media would be truthful they would be reporting on the federal funds that were designated for dam and spillway repair and construction that was sent to Los Angeles. Criminal charges should be brought up on the Governor and the legislators that allowed this to happen. Stop the train, stop making ranchers put costly fart catchers on their cattle, stop all of the nonsense and do right by the people of California. Fix the roads, bridges, and dams. You know! the kind of stuff they were sworn to do.

      (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
  2. Snoid says:

    52 years in Ca and I have no sympathy for it anymore with its failed infrastructures. 2014 studies show $25.3 Billion spent every year in Ca on illegal immigrant schooling, medical, bla,bla,bla. Where has all the lottery money gone for our kids educations? We have the highest taxes on everything out of 99% of the rest of the country and this is the kind of shit that happens because it rained a lot. 200,000 forced from their homes with no return in sight and local HMFIC’s making $300,000 to $400,000K a year in salaries. Brown should he skinned alive for letting this state go to shit like he has, but then again who voted him in? So you know what, suck it up California. Defy every logical game plan and violate federal law with your in your face defiance. I hope Trump tells you to go to hell when you ask for federal emergency funding to patch up your junk. Maybe you can divert the Bullshit train over the spillway so riders can look in awe at what you spent our money on.

    (21) 25 Total Votes - 23 up - 2 down
    • easymoney says:

      Excellent analysis snoid…
      I agree wholeheartedly.
      This is just the tip of an enormous iceberg, that we are getting a small peek at because of this one single episode.
      No infrastructure maintenance or upgrades in decades by the dem led government in California and lots of crying by those same legislators of “we don’t have enough money”… And it is far more than one earthen dam, it is most likely the majority of our infrastructure built 10 or more years ago.
      Now think if the rain had continued coming down like it had without the break that we got, what would have happened to that “safe spillway”, the dam and the 200,000 evacuees who would have never been able to leave fast enough if the spillway had failed suddenly(as forewarned in 2005) and the flood had ensued.
      Remember that next time you enter the voting booth…

      (9) 11 Total Votes - 10 up - 1 down
  3. Pelican1 says:

    “Dam scare?” Or another case of deferred maitinance founded in “drought related complacency”
    YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK

    (24) 30 Total Votes - 27 up - 3 down
  4. SLOBIRD says:

    This is going to cost the State a whole lot of money as they built it and own it There have been lawsuits filed by environmental groups about this spillway being earthen instead of cement and corrosion during major storms as well as the deterioration and maintenance of this dam, The engineers have done inspections from the air! What you say, yes, a fly over. The following history of this dam is very informative. Please be sure to read the Section: 2005 Dam re-licensing… Again, our government workers doing their jobs with expertise and dedication!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oroville_Dam

    Anyone get their notice today about California Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) (State Senator Jim Beall, D—San Jose) seeking to impose a nearly $4 billion new gas tax – 12 cents/gallon, 20 cents/gallon diesel tax and car registration increase of $38 on all Californians for roads and highways. Where the hell is our current millions/billions going? Hearings on this start Thursday! When will this insanity stop…

    (26) 30 Total Votes - 28 up - 2 down
  5. Rambunctious says:

    Maybe now we can get legislation passed for upgrading and building more dams and reservoirs and kick that stupid train to the curb.

    (35) 41 Total Votes - 38 up - 3 down
  6. kayaknut says:

    Why worry about a little dam issue, in 20 to 30 years at a cost of 500 billion+ dollars we will have a bullet non bullet train, that no one rides…….with a big gold plaque on it praising Governor Brown

    (35) 39 Total Votes - 37 up - 2 down

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