Large Hole in California Dam Spillway Continues to Grow

Feb 12, 2017, 00:29
Large Hole in California Dam Spillway Continues to Grow

A salmon hatchery below the dam is now at risk, officials say.

Department officials say the dam itself is not in danger.

The state's Department of Water Resources stopped the flow of water Tuesday from the dam so inspections could be made. Yet flows had to continue as the reservoir continued to rise.

Earlier this week, chunks of concrete flew off the almost mile-long spillway, creating a 200-foot-long, 30-foot-deep hole.

"We're ready to use the emergency spillway if needed", Croyle said in the release. DWR officials said if the 65,000 cfs discharge can be maintained, use of the emergency spillway may be avoided.

The DWR says the public is not now at risk, as the US Army Corps of Engineers has said the main dam is sound.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Dam Safety Branch and the DWR Division of Safety of Dams are jointly providing on-site engineers, drones and webcams to monitor the deteriorating cement spillway chute. "I think that's important. there's no risk to the public".

Still, authorities advised people living along the Feather River below the dam to gather important belongings and consider shelter if an evacuation warning is issued.

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Torrential rainwater flowed into the lake overnight Thursday almost three times as quickly as it could be released, bringing the lake to within six feet of overflowing into the emergency spillway.

The department does not expect the higher flows to cause flooding.

Three years ago, at the height of the drought, Lake Oroville looked a whole lot different, and even a year ago, in January 2016, the lake was still 210 feet below capacity. They believe that when combined with the primary spillway flow that the Feather River will flow at 60,000 to 70,000 cfs.

Department spokesman Ted Thomas spoke Thursday to quell speculation.

"This is just uncharted territory", Morse said, according to the Chronicle.

Meanwhile, workers at a state hatchery for California's native Chinook salmon loaded up all the baby salmon into tanker trucks Thursday afternoon to try to save them from the mud, concrete chunks and other debris coming their way from the crumbling spillway. An additional four million fish will have to remain at the hatchery, Morse said. They were releasing water at about 40,000 cubic feet per second. Officials estimated that the hatchery raised between 63 percent and 76 percent of California's recreational and commercial ocean fish catches, respectively.

The spillway has never been used for overflow since the dam was completed in 1948.

Cal Fire units are among those helping to clear trees from the ravine in case the emergency spillway is used.