A powerful storm hit California with the first in a new series of rainstorms moving across the northern half of the state while the south awaited a rains that forecasters said could be the strongest in years if not decades.
Communities just downstream of California’s Lake Oroville dam would not receive adequate warning or time for evacuations if the 770-foot-tall dam itself – rather than its spillways – were to abruptly fail, the state water agency that operates the nation’s tallest dam repeatedly advised federal regulators a half-decade ago.
These three graphs show key California reservoir conditions and river stages for the upper and lower Sacramento Valley. The images are from the California Department of Water Resources’ Data Exchange Center and the National Weather Service.
A reported federal investigation that’s stalled part of a California irrigation-drainage deal does not extend to the small San Luis Water District in western Fresno and Merced counties, a top district official said Wednesday.
Feeling confident they’ve created sufficient empty space in Lake Oroville for the time being, state Department of Water Resources officials said they reduced spillway outflows so they could address another looming challenge: restarting the dam’s hydroelectric plant, which can release additional water when operational.
Dam experts around the country are focusing on a leading suspect: Tiny bubbles. The prospect is simple, yet terrifying and has been the culprit in a number of near disasters at dams across the globe since engineers discovered about 50 years ago.
Given the enormity of the challenge and the national attention it has received, the events at the Oroville Dam have spurred calls for a more active federal role in rebuilding American infrastructure. However, rhetoric can only go so far in the face of the country’s long-standing challenge to plan and pay for these improvements, and Washington simply cannot tackle such a herculean task on its own. Instead, the Oroville Dam crisis should serve as a reminder of just how much infrastructure oversight falls under state, local, and even private leadership.
Rainwater erosion alongside the Oroville Dam’s main spillway appears to have contributed to the heavy damage that prompted a crisis, forcing more than 100,000 to be evacuated from their homes, a report reviewed by The Times showed.
Jeffrey Mount, a leading expert on California water policy, remembers the last time a crisis at the Oroville Dam seemed likely to prompt reform. It was 1997 and the lake risked overflowing, while levees further downstream failed and several people died.
Water releases through the damaged main spillway at Oroville Dam were scaled back Thursday to allow crews to reach and remove a pile of debris that has built up at the bottom of that chute, officials said.
The San Joaquin and Tuolumne rivers are rising, primarily because of reservoir releases to create room for later runoff from the Sierra. According to the weather service, the Tuolumne in Modesto was near 54.6 feet at 2:30 p.m. Thursday. Flood stage is 55 feet.
Meg Jordan was walking her dog along the East San Rafael shoreline this week when she caught sight of something she had never seen before — a sprawling mass of tule grass, branches and garbage floating near Spinnaker Point.