Monday, February 13, 2017

California dam water level drops after massive evacuation



The evacuation of nearly 200,000 people living down river from the tallest dam in the United States remains in effect but officials are working on a plan to allow the residents to return to their homes, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told a news conference on February 13.California water officials were draining water from the Oroville Dam to relieve pressure on a damaged spillway that threatened public safety and led to a sudden evacuation order on Sunday.

"As I've said before, I recognize and absolutely appreciate the frustration that people who have been evacuated must feel. That was not a decision that I made lightly, that was a decision based on the best information provided to me by the subject matter experts in consultation with other public safety officials and we determined that although efforts to mitigate potential failure needed to take place, we couldn't guarantee that they would be completed in the time frame necessary to ensure that people could be evacuated," explained Honea.

Operators of the nation's tallest dam prepared on Monday to shore up a crumbling emergency spillway with bags of rock while bleeding off excess water from a rain-swollen lake to ease the threat of inundating the Northern California communities under evacuation orders downstream. We've bumped the flow up and this situation occurred late yesterday afternoon to mitigate the impact of that erosion that was occurring. That solution worked to reduce the threat, it took a while for that water to calm down and for us to get in and assess that condition at the downstream side of the emergency spillway. We're going to continue on the challenges that we have with this facility, as indicated are still working to really dig down into the reservoir and move as much as we can out of the reservoir so that we have space for the storms that we expect to come in as well as the snow runoff later this spring," said Bill Coyle, who is the acting Director of the California Department of Water Resources.

Officials also were concerned about a large gouge that opened up last week in the dam's main spillway - a concrete-lined chute running adjacent to the eroding hillside spillway - after weeks of heavy rain in a state that has endured five years of drought. More storms are expected on Wednesday or Thursday.

The earth-filled dam lies just upstream and east of Oroville, a town of more than 16,000 people. At 770 feet (230 meters) high, the structure, built between 1962 and 1968, is the tallest U.S. dam, exceeding the Hoover Dam by more than 40 feet (12 meters). Evacuation orders remained in place on Monday morning for the estimated 188,000 people who live in the wider potential flood

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