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Indybay Feature
Mon Feb 13 2017 (Updated 02/14/17)
Lake Oroville Surges Over Emergency Spillway for First Time in History
Dam Maintenance Neglected as Governor Brown Promotes Delta Tunnels
Water from Lake Oroville flowed over the emergency spillway at Oroville Dam for the first time in the reservoir's 48-year history after the water level exceeded 901 feet in elevation on February 11. The water slowly began to flow over the concrete weir of the auxiliary spillway, down a hillside and into the Feather River, a major tributary of the Sacramento River, the state’s largest river.

After saying the situation was stable and public safety was not threatened, the Department of Water Resources reversed course and ordered an evacuation late in the afternoon of February 12, which included all low-lying areas in Butte County from Oroville south to the border of Sutter County. This was followed by evacuation orders to low-lying areas near the Feather River farther south, including those in Yuba City and Marysville. On February 13, state officials would give no timeline on when the 188,000 evacuees can return to their homes.

Dealing with the damage caused on February 7 by a growing hole in the dam's primary spillway could cost $100 to $200 million. Critics of the Delta Tunnels project said the Oroville Dam spillway rupture shows how basic dam assessments, management plans, and maintenance are being neglected as Governor Jerry Brown constantly promotes the California WaterFix as the "solution” to the state’s water supply and ecosystem problems.

“According to the American Society of Engineers 2013 Report, there are 678 high hazard dams in California, and 48% of them do not have an emergency plan,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, responding to the Oroville Dam crisis. “Watching the damage unfold at Oroville, it is striking to us that Governor Brown, CA WaterFix proponents, and Department of Water Resources leaders keep telling Californians that the tunnels are the needed fix for updating California’s water delivery system, yet basic dam assessments, management plans, and maintenance are forgotten or put off."

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See Also: Delta Legislators and Advocates Respond to 'Alarming' Oroville Dam Emergency
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