Devastating floods are almost annual occurrences in the West and in California. With the anticipated sea level rise and other impacts of a changing climate, particularly heavy winter rains, flood management is increasingly critical in California. Compounding the issue are man-made flood hazards such as levee stability and stormwater runoff.
The extreme weather swings experienced by Californians the past six years — a historic drought followed by drenching winter storms that caused $100 million in damage to San Jose and wrecked the spillway at Oroville Dam — will become the norm over coming generations, a new study has found.
While some construction continues at Oroville Dam, the bulk of work under phase two is expected to begin May 8, state Department of Water Resources officials said Wednesday in a monthly media update call. This comes as DWR submitted an updated 2017-2018 Lake Oroville operations plan on Tuesday to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the California Division of Safety of Dams for approval.
We explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.
Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
After a spring storm system dumped 5 to 7 inches of rain into the Feather River basin over the weekend, state officials said Sunday they likely won’t have to use the partly rebuilt flood control spillway at Oroville Dam after all.
Northern California is bracing for a major spring storm that is expected to dump several inches of rain on burn-scarred areas of wine country and could present the first test of the partially repaired spillway at the nation’s tallest dam.
California voters may experience a sense of déjà vu this year when they are asked twice in the same year to consider water bonds — one in June, the other headed to the November ballot.
Both tackle a variety of water issues, from helping disadvantaged communities get clean drinking water to making flood management improvements. But they avoid more controversial proposals, such as new surface storage, and they propose to do some very different things to appeal to different constituencies.
Flash floods, rising rivers and mudslides are possible across Northern California as a storm that’s more January than April barrels in from the Pacific, the National Weather Service warns. “This is not the time of year when we see these big precipitation events,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA.
It’s a recipe for flooding. A tropical storm pulling moisture from the South Pacific, often called an atmospheric river, will deliver mild temperatures and heavy rain to the snow-covered northern Sierra Nevada later this week.
Oroville Dam operators said Tuesday they may have to release water over a partially rebuilt spillway for the first time since repairs began on the badly damaged structure last summer. Department of Water Resources officials said anticipated storms could trigger releases this week or next.
With a pounding storm headed for California, state water officials said Tuesday that Oroville Dam’s crumbled spillway could get its first test since being rebuilt in the wake of last year’s near-catastrophe.
Nearly a year after record Midwestern floods killed at least five people and caused $1.7 billion in damage, a secretive lobbying effort funded by Illinois and Missouri drainage districts is underway to roll back flood regulations, documents show.
California’s drought-to-deluge cycle can mask the dangers Mother Nature can have in store. During one of the driest March-through-February time periods ever recorded in Southern California, an intense storm dumped so much rain on Montecito in January that mudflows slammed into entire rows of homes.
The flows have been shut off through the Hyatt Powerhouse at the base of Oroville Dam, and the lake is beginning to rise. And that’s all by design, according to the state Department of Water Resources.
Heavy rain in the Sierra foothills pushed a small dam within San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy water system to the brink of failure Thursday, sending a brief scare through the rural region where roads were closed and a few dozen residents were forced to evacuate.
Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. said on Wednesday that construction of the underground wall below the Oroville Dam emergency spillway completed in early March. The 1,450 feet long wall, drilled 35-65 feet into bedrock, is one preventative measure against the type of erosion that occurred there last year, should the emergency spillway ever be used again.
A bill introduced by Sen. Jim Nielsen that would create a citizens advisory commission for the Oroville Dam was amended in the Senate last week. This comes as the Oroville Dam Coalition has been lobbying over the past year for more community involvement, including through a citizens oversight committee, as a reaction to the spillway crisis in February 2017.
Peering out at sea, scientists last weekend saw a formidable sight: the spawning of a wet and wild storm the size of 30 Mississippi Rivers, headed towards California. The anticipation has officials all over the Golden State watching the skies and wondering: Will my town get a fraction of rain, or a bucketful?
The state Department of Water Resources submitted its plan to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Tuesday to address findings in the independent forensic report. The extensive forensic report, released on Jan. 5, blamed “long-term systematic failure,” including faulty design and insufficient maintenance, for the Oroville Dam crisis in February 2017.
Flood control officials are asking a judge to impose sanctions against an outspoken critic who they say has forced them to waste hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money on litigation the critic referred to as his “hobby.”
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Monday that seeks to beef up dam inspections following a near disaster that caused the evacuation of almost 200,000 people living downstream from the tallest one in the United States. The measure implements several recommendations from experts who reviewed the crisis at Oroville Dam last year.
Though the final phase of repair work on the main spillway at Lake Oroville is now on the back burner until spring, Department of Water Resources officials said crews are making significant progress on repairing the emergency spillway.
Until February 2017, the calls that came to Butte 2-1-1 ranged from quelling stress, and finding support organizations, to locating low-cost diapers. But for a few weeks after the Oroville Dam spillway disaster, the calls were desperate, seeking evacuation routes, hunting for surviving relatives, and wondering when residents could return home.
Coastal wetlands such as Bolinas Lagoon in Marin County, the marshes along Morro Bay and the ecological preserve in Newport Beach can purify the air, cleanse urban runoff before it flows into the sea and reduce flooding by absorbing storm surges like a sponge. But there’s little room left for this ecosystem along the changing Pacific Coast, as the sea continues to rise and Californians continue to develop the shore.
Modifications were made to construction plans for an upcoming phase of the Marysville Ring Levee project. … The Marysville Levee Commission, the Central Valley Flood Protection Board and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are proposing changes to their original plans for an area located along the existing levee to the southwest of Marysville, between the Fifth Street Bridge and E Street Bridge.
Assemblyman James Gallagher rounded up a group of bipartisan legislators to visit Oroville on Thursday, where they met with community members and toured the now-infamous dam. Representatives of districts ranging from southern to northern California came to better understand the place where the evacuation of about 188,000 people occurred just over a year ago.
Still recovering from January’s deadly mudslides, Santa Barbara County authorities are monitoring a storm system that is expected to dump light rain beginning Monday over the barren hills charred by last year’s Thomas Fire.
One year after the worst structural failures at a major U.S. dam in a generation, federal regulators who oversee California’s half-century-old, towering Oroville Dam say they are looking hard at how they overlooked its built-in weaknesses for decades.
Every day, people flock to Daniel Swain’s social media platforms to find out the latest news and insight about California’s notoriously unpredictable weather. Swain, a climate scientist at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA, famously coined the term “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” in December 2013 to describe the large, formidable high-pressure mass that was parked over the West Coast during winter and diverted storms away from California, intensifying the drought.
Swain’s research focuses on atmospheric processes that cause droughts and floods, along with the changing character of extreme weather events in a warming world. A lifelong Californian and alumnus of University of California, Davis, and Stanford University, Swain is best known for the widely read Weather West blog, which provides unique perspectives on weather and climate in California and the western United States. In a recent interview with Western Water, he talked about the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, its potential long-term impact on California weather, and what may lie ahead for the state’s water supply.
Butte County District Attorney Michael Ramsey has filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Water Resources seeking $34 billion to $51 billion in civil penalties for environmental damage following the failure of the Oroville Dam spillways last February.
Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey announced Wednesday that his office filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Water Resources for environmental damages to the Feather River as a result of the Oroville Dam crisis.
On Thursday, nearly a year since officials for the 10th largest city in the nation were caught off guard by a historic flood, [Sinia] Ellis joined more than 150 other households to announce a lawsuit against San Jose, Santa Clara County and the Santa Clara Valley Water District, which oversees flood protection for 1.8 million people.
Oroville Dam’s battered flood-control spillways have been largely rebuilt, but the cost of last February’s near-disaster keeps rising. On Friday, state officials put the total price tag at $870 million.
The Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are currently testing Folsom Dam’s auxiliary spillway, part of the official commissioning of the newly constructed structure. The Corps, in cooperation with Reclamation, are testing all of the major systems in the structure, ensuring that the facility operates as intended in the design. The tests, underway this week and next, include operating and releasing water from all six new auxiliary spillway radial gates.
This month’s tragic mudslides in Montecito, California are a reminder that natural hazards lurk on the doorsteps of many U.S. homes, even in affluent communities. Similar events occur every year around the world, often inflicting much higher casualties yet rarely making front-page headlines.
The disaster at Oroville Dam in California last winter put questions about dam safety in the headlines for the first time in many years. … The state of Utah went through its own disaster in 1989 that prompted big changes in the state’s dam safety program.
For days, crews have filled dozens of dump trucks with tangled metal, tire tread, mud and tree branches they cleared from the mudslide wreckage in Montecito. … A lawsuit filed on behalf of four Santa Barbara County residents accuses Southern California Edison and the Montecito Water District of negligence that contributed to the damage wrought by the Thomas fire and then the rains last week.
Signaling what could be a wave of lawsuits arising from last year’s spillway crisis, the city of Oroville is planning to file a complaint Wednesday against the state Department of Water Resources for damages it says it suffered during and after the emergency. About 188,000 people were evacuated from communities along the Feather River after the failure of Oroville Dam’s main spillway last Feb. 7.
After power and drinking water return, and cleanup crews haul away the last of the boulders and muck that splintered homes like a battering ram, the wealthy seaside hideaway of Montecito, California, will start rebuilding with the possibility of another catastrophic flood in mind.
Mudflows knocked out six sections of Montecito’s main water line that snakes along the hills above most homes. There, a pipeline once partly aboveground is now sometimes 50 feet in the air after the ravines beneath it washed out.
Scenic hill slopes can be inspiring – or deadly, as we are seeing after the disastrous debris flows that have ravaged the community of Montecito, California in the wake of heavy rains on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. … As mountains rise, erosion tears them down. And Southern California’s mountains are rising fast, squeezed up by the action of the region’s active faults.
Santa Barbara County crews worked through the holidays to defend coastal communities from the second half of Southern California’s familiar cycle of fire and flood. They cleaned out the 11 debris basins that dot the Santa Barbara front country, making room for the dirt and ash and rocks that winter rains would inevitably send tumbling down mountain slopes laid bare by the massive Thomas Fire.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2018 budget continues efforts to combat climate change. A total of $9.8 billion is destined for the Natural Resources Agency for things like groundwater sustainability, flood management and additional funding for expanding the state’s firefighting capabilities.
Grant Davis, director of the California Water Resources Department, was replaced Wednesday just days after an independent investigation of the Oroville dam spillway incident last year found that a flawed safety culture contributed to the disaster. The agency said Gov. Jerry Brown replaced Davis with Karla Nemeth, who has been deputy secretary and senior advisor for water policy at the California Natural Resources Agency since 2014.
The Montecito mudslides takes a grim place as one of California’s deadliest flooding events in several years. … Officials said in the days leading up to the storm, a team of people, including meteorologists, Cal Fire, U.S. Forest Service, local firefighters and flood district personnel, worked to estimate where the mudslides would hit.
California water officials have always insisted public safety was their only concern as they struggled with the crisis unfolding last February at Oroville Dam. The forensic team investigating what happened at Lake Oroville, however, has pinpointed another factor guiding the decisions made by the Department of Water Resources: the state’s desire to continue shipping water to faraway farms and cities that rely on deliveries from the reservoir.
The spillway failures at Oroville Dam that prompted tens of thousands to flee for their lives last winter were the result of years of mistakes, lax inspections and lazy repairs by the state’s water agency, a team of independent dam experts reported Friday. Their conclusions: State water managers should not have built the dam’s primary spillway on faulty bedrock.
New York will be the first major metropolis to be remapped taking into account the realities of climate change, like rising sea levels and increasingly powerful storms. … As a result, FEMA and city officials say, New York could be an example for other places around the country.
Less than nine months after two massive holes formed in Lake Oroville’s main spillway, construction crews wrapped up their first phase of rebuilding it. Some local residents have expressed concerns that the quick turnover could result in faults or design flaws, but an official with the Department of Water Resources said if any crew can accomplish the feat, it would be Kiewit Infrastructure West Co.
The independent team of experts investigating the dramatic failure of the spillways last February at Oroville Dam that led to the evacuation of 188,000 people has concluded that California water officials were “overconfident and complacent” and gave “inadequate priority for dam safety,” according to a final report released Friday.
The forensic team investigating the February emergency at Oroville Dam blasted the California Department of Water Resources on Friday, saying the dam’s owner and operator did a poor job of designing, building and maintaining the structure and neglected safety while focusing on the “water delivery needs” of its customers to the south.
State Department of Water Resources officials recently met with Oroville Dam Coalition members to consider their ideas for the Oroville Wildlife Area project, but announced later the same day that the department had different plans.
Elected officials and other groups representing those living below the troubled Oroville Dam have asked the Trump administration to hold off on renewing its 50-year license, saying the federal government should at least know why the spillway broke in half last winter before signing off.
There were many takeaways from last February’s Lake Oroville spillway incident, but one very alarming one: a large number of Yuba-Sutter residents who evacuated said they experienced issues with leaving the area, mainly due to traffic congestion. And a startling number of residents reported that they stayed home instead of fleeing, risking their lives in the event the emergency spillway did collapse.
The near-disaster at Oroville Dam last February brought damage claims flooding into the state by the hundreds – shops and restaurants that lost business, farms that got overwhelmed by surges in water, cities and counties buried in evacuation expenses. Most claims argue that the state is responsible for the emergency because it ignored warning signs about the condition of the dam’s spillway.
The previously secret state Department of Water Resources memorandum explaining the hairline cracks in the Oroville Dam spillway is now public. The document provides more details on how Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., the contractor for spillway reconstruction, tried to reduce shrinkage, which leads to cracking in concrete.
Yuba-Sutter residents voiced concerns to the Department of Water Resources over a variety of issues Thursday night, including the hairline cracks that have appeared on the reconstructed spillway, a need for more transparency moving forward, and the significant amount of sediment buildup in the Feather River brought about by the Lake Oroville incident last February and plans – or lack thereof – to clear it out.
The Bee reviewed five years of inspection reports by the California Department of Water Resources for 93 dams that the state identified as potentially problematic in the wake of the Oroville Dam spillway failure. … Use the map to see if a dam near you is on the list.
When it comes to inspecting dams, California is second to none. A panel of national experts examined the state’s Division of Safety of Dams last year and declared it tops in the field, citing inspectors’ knack for flagging small problems before they turn serious. Getting dam owners to fix those flaws quickly is another matter.
Northern California residents living in the shadow of the nation’s tallest dam vented decades of frustration with state water managers Wednesday, telling officials they have no credibility when they say hairline cracks in a newly rebuilt spillway are nothing to worry about.
It might be another year or so until reconstruction of the main spillway at Lake Oroville is officially complete, but Department of Water Resources officials say the structure is ready for whatever this winter can throw at it, even if there are a few cracks here and there.
The Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency got to work on emergency levee repairs following last winter’s high waters and the Oroville Dam evacuation. Seepage, boils, sink holes and water erosion were signs of severe distress. The $28.5 million project, mostly funded by the state, is geared up to complete by Christmas.
Atmospheric rivers are relatively narrow bands of moisture that ferry precipitation across the Pacific Ocean to the West Coast.
They are commonly referred to as the “Pineapple Express” because of their origins in tropical regions. While atmospheric rivers are necessary to keep California’s water reservoirs full, some of them are dangerous because the extreme rainfall and wind can cause catastrophic flooding and damage. Their presence has been likened to the West Coast version of the hurricane hazard posed to the Southeastern United States.
Phase two of construction at Oroville Dam — with work on both spillways — might prove more challenging than the first feat, the contractor’s project director said in a media call Thursday. … DWR [California Department of Water Resources] will hold two community meetings next week.
Several small cracks have been discovered on the Oroville Dam’s newly rebuilt concrete spillway, prompting federal regulators to express concern about the $500 million construction project under way at the troubled facility. But state water officials said Tuesday that the series of millimeter-wide cracks on the surface of the main spillway pose no structural problems for the nation’s tallest dam.
Federal regulators have asked the officials who operate Oroville Dam — and who are in charge of the $500 million-plus effort to rebuild and reinforce the facility’s compromised spillways — to explain small cracks that have appeared in recently rebuilt sections of the dam’s massive concrete flood-control chute.
New Melones holds four times as much water as it did at this time last year. That’s good news if the state shifts back into a dry pattern. But if California gets hit with another string of atmospheric river storms this winter, there won’t be enough room to hold it all back.
Explore the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour.
Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
Explore the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as we learn about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply. All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. This year, special attention will be paid to the flood event at Oroville Dam and the efforts to repair the dam spillway before the next rainy season.
This 3-day, 2-night tour travels across the Sacramento Valley and follows the river north from Sacramento through Chico to Redding and Lake Shasta, where participants take a houseboat ride.
Participants of this tour snake along the San Joaquin River to learn firsthand about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive river restoration plans.
The San Joaquin River was the focus of one of the most contentious legal battles in California water history, ending in a 2006 settlement between the federal government, Friant Water Authority and a coalition of environmental groups.
Droughts and floods are both a part of life in California as 2017 has so clearly demonstrated: It took one of the wettest winters on record to pull the state from the depths of a five-year drought. The state has invested funds in bulking up drought and flood protection in the past, but recent events highlighted the necessity of rejuvenating those efforts.
In a state with such topsy-turvy weather as California, the ability of forecasters to peer into the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean and accurately predict the arrival of storms is a must to improve water supply reliability and flood management planning.
The problem, according to Jeanine Jones, interstate resources manager with the state Department of Water Resources, is that “we have been managing with 20th century technology with respect to our ability to do weather forecasting.”
Sen. Jim Nielsen, Assemblyman James Gallagher, and members of the Oroville Dam Coalition are seeking federal assistance on issues relating to the dam they say need to be resolved. They met with commissioners of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and representatives for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
State Sen. Jim Nielsen, Assemblyman James Gallagher and Oroville Dam Coalition members are heading to Washington, D.C., this week to address what they say are outstanding issues following the spillway crisis.
The rains that swept into Northern California this weekend from the Gulf of Alaska didn’t turn out to be as extensive as forecasters had expected. … Work crews continue to repair the main spillway and emergency spillways at Oroville Dam in Butte County, which were heavily damaged in February during the massive atmospheric river storms that ended California’s five-year drought.
The Oroville Dam flood control spillway has been fixed. … In addition, [state Department of Water Resources Director Grant] Davis said “repairs and updates” are already being made at some of the 93 other dams around California where the state ordered intensive inspections in the wake of the Oroville crisis.
As California moves into rainy season, a growing number of voices are urging the state to explore getting out of federal flood insurance and creating its own program. … Among the loudest proponents of this small version of Calexit is Nicholas Pinter, a professor at UC Davis and associate director of its Center for Watershed Sciences.
Crews are laying the last layer of concrete on the Oroville Dam spillway with one day until the state Department of Water Resources’ deadline to have the structure ready to pass flows of 100,000 cubic-feet per second, or cfs.
Even living here on the West Coast, Marion Townsend decided to act as floods ravaged Texas and hurricanes pounded the Caribbean in recent weeks. Her Sacramento neighborhood slopes downward from a levee that separates it from the American River, in an area that officials concede never should have been settled but is home to 100,000 residents.
California needs to spend another $100 million a year to keep the state’s levee system sound, according to state flood control experts. At a press conference marking flood preparedness week Monday at a levee repair site near Sacramento, Bill Edgar, president of the Central Valley Flood Protection Board said the levees will need a $17 billion to $21 billion investment over the next 30 years to protect the seven million Californians at flood risk.
The state Department of Water Resources plans to clear mounds of rock from the Gold Rush days at the Oroville Wildlife Area and put them to use in the rebuilding of the spillways at Oroville Dam. DWR received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, according to a filing made last week.
Trouble with the Upper Berryessa Creek flood project between North San Jose and Milpitas continues to work its way downstream, as a group of residents plan to legally challenge the Santa Clara Valley Water District and California Department of Fish and Wildlife in court over “unmitigated” environmental impacts from the Lower Berryessa Creek project.
The cost of repairing the crippling damage to Oroville Dam’s spillways caused by last winter’s fierce storms has almost doubled, state water officials said Thursday. … Jeff Petersen, project manager for Kiewit, said that once construction workers got on the site they discovered they had to dig much deeper to get down to bedrock than they had expected.
In one of the fastest-paced civic construction jobs in recent U.S. history, hundreds of carpenters, operating engineers and iron workers are rushing to complete repairs to the damaged Oroville Dam spillway. The crews are trying to beat a Nov. 1 deadline and the Northern California rainy season, which once again will begin to fill the massive reservoir behind the nation’s highest dam.
An unprecedented wave of destructive hurricanes has brought the long-struggling federal flood insurance program to the brink. Now Congress faces tough questions about whether to again bail out the nearly 50-year-old program and how to implement reforms to make it more sustainable, secure and cost-effective.
A plan has been prepared for flood control operations this rainy season at Oroville Dam, which call for keeping the lake lower and aggressively releasing water if the water level rises above trigger points. Up to now, the dam has been operated under rules drafted by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1970, which set a maximum lake surface elevation target of 848.5 feet above sea level for November through April, and 870.1 feet in May.
Local governments and nonprofits trying to recover from major disasters have sometimes learned the hard way that money spent on protective measures, cleanup and rebuilding is not always reimbursed by the U.S. government.
Thursday’s package, which the Senate could take up when it returns next week, includes money for Federal Emergency Management Agency’s nearly empty Disaster Relief Fund and for the financially-struggling National Flood Insurance Program.
Something monumental happened on August 25 in California water management that received almost no media attention: It became official policy to reconnect the state’s major rivers with their floodplains. The action by the Central Valley Flood Protection Board, an obscure panel appointed by the governor, clears the way for the state to embrace projects that allow floods to recharge groundwater. … The timing coincides with two other major state programs.
Next month three Marin Municipal Water District spillways will undergo an inspection to make sure they are safe in the wake of the Oroville Dam problems earlier this year. Last week the district hired Los Angeles-based AECOM to conduct evaluations of the spillways at the Kent, Nicasio and Soulajule reservoirs as required by the state Division of Safety of Dams.
As increasingly intense hurricanes batter the Southeast and the Caribbean, heightening some of the worst fears about a changing climate, California is facing its own threat of bigger and more destructive storms.
On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors of the Water Resources Agency approved up to $500,000 for state-mandated emergency repair work to the county-owned Lake San Antonio and Lake Nacimiento dam spillways dubbed “minimum requirements” to allow the dam spillways to continue operating, with additional, classified assessments still being finalized that could result in further repairs.
After big natural disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, federal officials often tighten up flood protection standards. That’s what happened in California after Hurricane Katrina twelve years ago. But many flood-prone communities are still struggling to meet those standards, including Sacramento, one of the riskiest flood zones in the country.
The cities of San Francisco and Oakland are suing some of the world’s largest oil companies over climate change, joining an emerging legal effort to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for the damages wrought by rising seas.
Right now, California may be dealing with more fire than flood, but there are still important lessons that the state can learn from Harvey and Irma, says Nicholas Pinter, the associate director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis. In fact, says Pinter, there are lessons that the Western United States should learn from flood management around the country, and the world.
State lawmakers responsible for the safety of residents downstream from Lake Oroville applaud the Department of Water Resources reconstruction to the dam’s damaged primary and emergency spillways, but the lawmakers still want answers and accountability for the cause of February’s near-catastrophe.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has determined that the 60-year-old Whittier Narrows Dam is structurally unsafe and poses a potentially catastrophic risk to the working-class communities along the San Gabriel River floodplain. According to an agency report based on research conducted last year, unusually heavy rains could trigger a premature opening of the dam’s massive spillway.
A single photograph of rapid erosion below Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway — and an unidentified geologist’s worried question about whether the local sheriff knew how dire the situation might be — were the key events that led to the evacuation of 180,000 people living along the Feather River on Feb. 12.
In the confusion and chaos of the emergency at Oroville Dam, as thousands of residents were being evacuated, public safety officials and others involved in managing the crisis found themselves clashing with the people operating the nation’s tallest dam.
A towering spillway at the nation’s tallest dam was crumbling, and tens of thousands of people were fleeing for their lives. But as darkness fell, state officials realized dealing with the unfolding crisis in Northern California was about to get even worse: They couldn’t see.
No living soul can testify of the winter of 1861-62, when 45 days of rain transformed the Central Valley into a 300-mile-long inland sea. And only some Stocktonians are old enough to remember the last time the city itself flooded, in the 1950s.
A team investigating the Oroville Dam spillway breach in February said it has not seen evidence that a comprehensive review of its construction and design has ever been conducted since it was built nearly 40 years ago. … Agencies like the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Shasta Dam, do more comprehensive construction and design reviews.
A team of independent experts charged Tuesday that the state and federal officials who inspected Oroville Dam relied too heavily on visual inspections, ignoring blueprints, construction records and other documented clues that could have warned them about the dam’s troubled flood-control spillway long before it fractured in February. … The forensic team’s report brought a swift response from Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, whose constituents were among those evacuated.
The most detailed report yet on what went wrong at Oroville Dam last winter when 180,000 people fled amid fears of flooding found that state and federal officials failed to uncover long-standing construction and maintenance issues at the nation’s tallest dam.
The UC Berkeley group analyzing the state Department of Water Resources’ response to the spillway crisis is still not satisfied with the department’s explanation for Oroville Dam’s “green spot” in a report released earlier this week.
Hurricane Harvey is sure to add more crushing debt to the National Flood Insurance Program, which is already $25 billion in the red. So when Congress resumes on Tuesday, will it immediately act to fix this troubled program?
As torrential rains and dangerous flood waters pummel large swaths of Texas and parts of Louisiana, California lawmakers are eying legislation to prevent similar damage from from the state’s own disasters.
The state Department of Water Resources has released a report on the Oroville Dam’s “green spot,” declaring the extensive area of persistent moisture on the face of the dam is due to seasonally trapped rainfall and poses no threat to the dam’s integrity.
Two weeks before Harvey’s flood waters engulfed much of Houston, President Donald Trump quietly rolled back an order by his predecessor that would have made it easier for storm-ravaged communities to use federal emergency aid to rebuild bridges, roads and other structures so they can better withstand future disasters. … [Former President Barack] Obama’s now-defunct order also revamped Federal Flood Risk Management Standards, calling for tighter restrictions on new construction in flood-prone areas.
Taxpayers have spent billions of dollars on dams, levees and bypasses to keep Sacramento and other Central Valley towns and cities from flooding, but experts say the infrastructure would prove no match for a megastorm like the one that pummeled Houston this week.
The devastation Hurricane Harvey has wrought in southeastern Texas has brought new focus to the National Flood Insurance Program — and to a pending Republican effort to restructure and partially privatize an industry that has been effectively subsidized with tens of billions of federal taxpayer dollars.
Tropical Storm Harvey has dumped 15 trillion gallons of water on southeastern Texas. Scientists warn that with climate change, future storms will be wetter and more intense – that includes in California.
After more than a century of building levees higher to hold back its rivers, California took another step Friday toward a flood-control policy that aims to give raging rivers more room to spread out instead.
The Oroville City Council fired off a critical letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, criticizing how the Department of Water Resources operates Oroville Dam and demanding a host of changes.
Construction at the Lake Oroville spillways is on schedule to meet a Nov. 1 deadline for this year’s repairs, according to the Department of Water Resources. The department has passed the midway point on its construction timeline for this year’s repairs on the main spillway, which was badly damaged during high February releases.
President Donald Trump said Tuesday he has signed a new executive order intended to make more efficient the federal permitting process for construction of transportation, water and other infrastructure projects without harming the environment.
The failure of the Oroville spillway in February led people to notice a large green spot on Lake Oroville’s dam. The spot has been there for years, but the questions remain as to whether it’s a sign the dam is leaking.
Federal disaster officials have agreed to chip in $22.8 million to help California pay the estimated $500 million cost of the Oroville Dam crisis. … Department of Water Resources spokeswoman Erin Mellon said Wednesday during a biweekly conference call with reporters that she expects more money to come the state’s way.
Consider a couple of scenarios for big trouble at Oroville Dam: First: The facility’s main concrete spillway suffers serious damage, resulting in erosion of the rock beneath it — and potentially threatening the safety of the dam itself.
Friday is the deadline to file a claim with the state government to have a chance of being reimbursed for damages suffered during the Oroville Dam spillway emergency. … Residents may be eligible to receive money to compensate for travel expenses, damage to property, and loss of salary or benefits.
One week before the deadline to formally seek payment from the state of California for damages stemming from the Oroville Dam’s spillway failure this year, the state has received 93 claims worth a combined $1.1 billion.
Six months ago, relentless winter storms dumped nearly 13 inches of rain in four days on the Sierra Foothills, tearing an enormous hole in the spillway at Oroville Dam, the nation’s highest, and leading to an unprecedented emergency that prompted the evacuation of 188,000 people from nearby towns. Today, what could have been ground zero for America’s worst dam disaster is now a hotbed of construction activity.
The heavy work is now underway on emergency repairs to the nearly 3 miles of levee protecting the heart of Yuba City. The Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency received federal approval Tuesday night to proceed wth the work.
Drone video released by the California Department of Water Resources shows how repairs are moving along at the Oroville Dam’s main spillway, which crumbled during the extremely wet winter and forced the evacuation of 180,000 people.
California officials have ordered owners of 93 dams to reinspect their flood-control spillways following the Oroville Dam crisis, including seven in eastern Fresno County…. Large dams on the list include New Exchequer, which creates Lake McClure on the Merced River, and Don Pedro Dam on the Tuolumne River, which contains the sixth-largest reservoir in California.
California officials have ordered owners of 93 dams to reinspect their flood-control spillways following the Oroville Dam crisis, saying the spillways need a closer look following a preliminary review. The list released by the Department of Water Resources includes some of the largest dams in California, such as the New Exchequer Dam on the Merced River, New Bullards Bar on the Yuba River, and Lake Almanor Dam on the Feather River in Plumas County.
Officials in charge of repairing the damaged spillways at Lake Oroville said they’ve received the needed authorization from state and federal agencies for 2017 construction plans. The plan now is to continue preparing the demolished main spillway for concrete to be poured over the next few weeks.
Work to strengthen Oroville Dam, shore up downstream levees and other types of flood-prevention projects would be eligible for fast-tracked state approval under new California legislation lawmakers will consider when they return from summer recess next month.
One of the country’s foremost experts on catastrophic engineering failures released a new report Thursday on the troubled Oroville Dam that asks a disturbing question: Is the country’s tallest dam leaking?
State water resources officials and federal regulators caused the failure of the Oroville Dam spillway in February by ignoring long-established guidelines and neglecting their duty to manage risks and detect flaws, a scathing report by a Berkeley engineering expert concluded Thursday.
Construction work on a portion of the Marysville Ring Levee – deemed by a federal agency as the “weakest link” in the city’s levees – began earlier this month along Highway 70. … John Nicoletti, a levee commissioner for Marysville, said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has assessed the ring levee and found that Binney Junction is the city’s most vulnerable point.
For the first time in more than six months, no federally monitored rivers in California or Nevada are flooding or at risk of flooding, according to climate scientists. From Jan. 4 to July 15, at least one California or Nevada river fed by the Sierra Nevada was at or above flood monitoring stage, following a historically wet winter.
Congress is considering sweeping changes to the debt-laden National Flood Insurance Program that could jack up flood insurance rates for hundreds of thousands of homeowners under a bill that a Florida real estate group called “devastating.”
In its eighth memorandum released Thursday, the independent board analyzing the redesign of the Oroville Dam spillways commends the construction contractor’s work and makes slight tweaks to former recommendations.
Trails, roads and campgrounds throughout the Sierra high country were hit hard by snow and runoff from one of the largest snowpacks in recorded history, leaving public agencies scrambling and summer visitors feeling lost.
The state Department of Water Resources has filed a request with the Federal Energy Commission to demolish and reconstruct an additional 240 feet of the main Oroville Dam spillway upper chute this season. The purpose of the change is to ensure the reconstruction can be complete in two seasons, per a recent FERC filing.
The Department of Water Resources have asked federal regulators to let it demolish and replace an additional 240 feet of the spillway’s 3,000-foot concrete chute before the rains comes this fall, leaving less work for next year.
Nearly 80 days after winning the bid to fix the disastrous Oroville Dam spillways, the contractor Kiewit offered the Chico Enterprise-Record and Oroville Mercury-Register Friday a close-up view of construction efforts.
The preliminaries are just about over. Permanent structural repairs are about to begin at Oroville Dam. Five months after an unprecedented emergency forced a mass evacuation, state officials said Wednesday they’re ready to start replacing the now-demolished lower portions of Oroville’s main flood-control spillway.
Anyone who contemplated the wreckage of the Oroville Dam’s main spillway back in February — either while water was pounding down the shattered concrete structure or when the flow was stopped later and the enormity of the damage was fully visible — probably had this thought cross their mind: “That is going to be tough to fix.”
Facing a crisis after a huge crater formed in the main flood-control spillway at Oroville Dam, officials at the California Department of Water Resources called in an old hand to help: David Gutierrez, a nationally known engineer who had just retired as chief of the agency’s dam-safety division.
Inside a cavernous northern Utah warehouse, hydraulic engineers send water rushing down a replica of a dam built out of wood, concrete and steel – trying to pinpoint what repairs will work best at the tallest dam in the U.S for a spillway torn apart in February during heavy rains that triggered the evacuation of 200,000 people living downstream.
The flooding is the result of more than a week of high temperatures that have rapidly melted mountain snow, filling Pine Flat Reservoir and prompting the Army Corps of Engineers to send a surge of water into the Kings River to make room for more runoff behind the dam. The river surge tested levees along the Kings in a way some residents has never expected.
Water releases from Pine Flat Dam were ratcheted up Thursday as federal officials worked to prevent the reservoir from overtopping the dam. … Crews from Kings County and the Kings River Conservation District responded to a small breach in a levee on the south fork of the Kings River between Grangville and Highway 198.
Work at the Oroville Dam will carry on in spite of the 110 degree-plus temperatures anticipated this week. There are protections in place for construction employees with the contractor, Kiewit, and concrete has to undergo a cooling techniques to be able to keep applying it, said Jeff Petersen, the company’s project director in a press conference call Wednesday morning.
The rush of workers and heavy machinery to the shore of Lake Oroville is so vast and unfamiliar it’s fanning rumors across this rural region that the ruckus couldn’t just be for a historic dam repair. … But as state officials gave The Chronicle a tour last week of the construction site, they said the effort was both extensive and relatively straightforward.
Fresh off the Oroville Dam crisis, California lawmakers on Thursday voted to make dam-safety plans secret through language that was quietly inserted into a budget-related bill. The legislation, which requires Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature before becoming law, says emergency action plans at dams would be kept confidential to “protect public safety.”
In February, damage to the spillway of the dam on Lake Oroville in Butte County, California, and erosion under the dam’s emergency spillway threatened to send billions of gallons of water cascading through dozens of California communities. The dam did not collapse, but the damage to the spillway and the emergency spillway was enormous.
This weekend the water level in Isabella Lake is expected to reach — and maybe even exceed — the restricted pool allowed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. And that means it might be time for residents who reside below the lake’s troubled dam to review their risks.
Concerned Trinity Dam could suffer the same fate as Oroville Dam — which had a near catastrophic failure this past winter — the Trinity County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to continue to pursue getting an emergency spillway built on the dam.
Even as President Donald Trump has announced his intention for the U.S. to withdraw from a global climate agreement, many of the nation’s river communities are responding to climate change by raising or replacing bridges that suddenly seem too low to stay safely above water.
The helicopters alone cost more than $100,000 a day at one point. Weeks of dredging debris ran to more than $22 million. And on the day after the massive evacuation, as the crisis was peaking, the state spent $3,902 on breakfasts and lunches for emergency workers.
If you’re expecting a quick and easy answer on what caused the spillway failure at Oroville Dam, think again. The leader of the independent forensics team studying the Oroville crisis said Thursday that the crack in the dam’s main flood-control spillway likely was caused by a combination of problems.
The Enterprise-Record/Oroville Mercury-Record got its closest look so far Wednesday at the Oroville Dam spillway work on a site visit hosted by the state Department of Water Resources. … The visit included an hour-long meeting in a conference room at DWR’s Oroville headquarters, and a trip to catch a view of lower spillway blasting around 12:30 p.m. followed by access to the structure above the spillway.
AB 646, which has passed two committees and could go to the Assembly floor next week, would require landlords throughout California to provide written notification to those renting in “a special flood hazard area or an area of potential flooding.”
President Donald Trump made rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure a major job-creating campaign pledge. But while his first big federal budget proposal has $200 billion for that purpose, most of it won’t be available until late 2018 and beyond.
Three months after Coyote Creek overflowed its banks and caused $100 million in damage to homes and businesses in San Jose, a flood control project straddling the city’s northern edges with Milpitas may be in danger of being shut down because of red tape. …
Federal dam regulators are reevaluating how they conduct dam inspections in the wake of the Oroville Dam spillway crisis, and they’ve ordered the nation’s dam operators to thoroughly inspect their facilities to see “if they have a potential Oroville waiting to happen,” a federal dam inspector said Sunday.
State officials plan to stop releasing water down the mangled main spillway at Oroville Dam on Friday, allowing workers to begin months of round-the-clock repairs to the chute and to an emergency spillway that is also badly damaged.
A hole in the concrete spillway chute of the Oroville Dam first made itself known 100 days ago. How it got there is still a mystery, as is what it will cost to fix the resulting damage and whether a fix will be in place in time for the next rainy season.
The deaths of five people in two Tulare County rivers in less than a month are prompting officials to warn the public about the dangers of rushing water fed by the heavy snowpack now melting in the Sierra. “Stay away from the river’s edge, and don’t enter the water,” said Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux.
America’s tallest dam was built from earth, stone and concrete – and the towering ambition of Gov. Pat Brown. Sixty years before a crisis at Oroville Dam sent thousands fleeing for their lives in February, the late governor brought an almost evangelical zeal to erecting the structure that would hold back the Feather River to deliver water to the parched southern half of the state.
Trouble had been developing at the Oroville Dam and the main spillway had been shut down; water started flowing over the emergency spillway and the hillside below it started disintegrating at an alarming rate. Late afternoon on Feb. 12, evacuation orders were issued. By most people’s accounts, it didn’t go well.
If a fresh look had been taken at Oroville Dam — any time between 50 years ago and last year — could the breakup of the spillway have been avoided? Is enough being done to ensure that work done today will keep the communities downstream of the dam safe? Should the Department of Water Resources remain in charge of the dam in the future?
The amount of money Donald Trump’s administration reimburses California for repairs to Oroville Dam could depend on whether the state properly maintained the dam’s spillway prior to it crumbling this winter, a state water official told lawmakers Thursday.