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 Colorado River Basin is more
than likely headed to unprecedented shortage in 2020 that could
force supply cuts to some states, but work is “furiously”
underway to reduce the risk and avert a crisis, Bureau of
Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman told an audience of
California water industry people.
During a keynote address at the Water Education Foundation’s
Sept. 20 Water Summit in Sacramento, Burman said there is
opportunity for Colorado River Basin states to control their
destiny, but acknowledged that in water, there are no guarantees
that agreement can be reached.
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law Sen. Jim Nielsen’s bill to
form a citizens advisory commission for the Oroville Dam.
Senate Bill 955 creates a 19-member commission to provide a
forum for residents and state officials to discuss reports,
maintenance and other ongoing issues related to the dam.
Fixing the Oroville Dam spillway wrecked by storms in 2017 will
cost $1.1 billion — a $455-million hike from initial estimates
— the state Department of Water Resources announced Wednesday.
The swelling cost can be blamed on design changes that have
been made over the last 16 months and damage to the facility
near Oroville, Calif., that was far more extensive than
initially presumed, the department said.
As communities grapple with record breaking rainfall and
flooding there have been a slew of new technologies, known as
‘disaster apps,’ to help alert people and keep them safe. Now,
Austin, Texas, is developing its own system, one it hopes will
expand to other places. The city is in a part of Texas already
known as Flash Flood Alley.
Butte County has filed another lawsuit against the state
Department of Water Resources, this time for damages from the
Oroville Dam crisis that continue to increase. The county is
seeking compensation for damage to its roads, which heavy
equipment is still utilizing for construction efforts, and also
for costs associated with responding to the spillway emergency
in February 2017.
A 30-foot-wide section of temporary wall on the upper chute of
the Oroville Dam spillway fell over late last week, the state
Department of Water Resources confirmed on Monday. The collapse
did not impact construction deadlines and resulted in no
injuries, according to the department.
Farmers in the Central Valley are broiling about California’s plan to increase flows in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems to help struggling salmon runs avoid extinction. But in one corner of the fertile breadbasket, River Garden Farms is taking part in some extraordinary efforts to provide the embattled fish with refuge from predators and enough food to eat.
And while there is no direct benefit to one farm’s voluntary actions, the belief is what’s good for the fish is good for the farmers.
The local oversight committee spearheaded by Assemblyman James
Gallagher and Sen. Jim Nielsen had some suggestions this week
for the state Department of Water Resources on its assessment
of the Oroville Dam. This comes about a month after the
committee met for the first time on July 18.
Eighteen months after the dramatic failure of the spillways at
Oroville Dam in Northern California, a disaster that led to the
evacuation of 188,000 people, construction is on schedule to
complete the concrete work in the main spillway by Nov. 1.
… On Monday, Lake Oroville was 51 percent full, or 73
percent of its historic average for this date.
Crews have begun to place the final layer of concrete this week
on the upper portion of the Oroville Dam spillway chute. This
marks a “crucial milestone,” said Tony Meyers, project manager
for the recovery project for the state Department of Water
Resources, in a moderated media call on Wednesday.
When rivers flood now in the United States, the first towns to
get hit are the unprotected ones right by the river. The last
to go, if they flood at all, are the privileged few behind
strong levees. While levees mostly are associated with large,
low-lying cities such as New Orleans, a majority of the
nation’s Corps-managed levees protect much smaller communities,
rural farm towns and suburbs such as Valley Park [Missouri].
The independent review board hired by the state Department of
Water Resources to put outside eyes on an assessment which will
play a large role in the future operations of the Oroville Dam
has released its first report. Suggestions for infrastructure
changes like the construction of a second gated spillway are
expected to be considered through what DWR is calling a
comprehensive needs assessment.
Fran Obrigewitsch pulled up the most recent photo on her iPhone
of the Oroville Dam spillway, taken just two days before it
started to collapse last year. Her first chance to catch
another glimpse was Monday, as the state Department of Water
Resources reopened the stretch of Oro Dam Boulevard East that
offers views of the spillway to the general public for the
first time since the crisis began.
A historic first meeting between state Department of Water
Resources officials and local leaders as a committee solidified
that the community will have a say in the future of Oroville
Dam operations. … The committee is being led by co-chairs
Assemblyman James Gallagher, Sen. Jim Nielsen and DWR’s John
Phase two of construction on the Oroville Dam’s main and
emergency spillways is speeding along, as the Oroville
Mercury-Register got to see up close in a tour on Wednesday
guided by state Department of Water Resources officials. With
half of the main spillway currently a work in progress, the
department’s goal is to have the structure ready to use, if
needed, by Nov. 1 — just under four months away.
For years, there has been a movement in California to restore
floodplains, by moving levees back from rivers and planting
trees, shrubs and grasses in the low-lying land between. The
goal has been to go back in time, to bring back some of the
habitat for birds, animals and fish that existed before the
state was developed.
Concrete pouring is due to start Monday on the second half of
the Oroville Dam emergency spillway “splash pad.” That’s the
only milestone reported Wednesday during a media call on
progress to repair the emergency spillway and main spillway,
which sustained serious damage in February 2017.
Among California rivers, the Yuba is one of the most dramatic.
Draining the Sierra Nevada just north of Lake Tahoe, it is
steep and flashy – one of the most flood-prone rivers in the
state. Yuba River floods have killed people – notably in 1955,
1986 and 1997 – and climate change is making such floods more
The Army Corps of Engineers will spend $74 million to enlarge
Success Lake east of Porterville, doubling flood protection for
the city and boosting the water supply for farmers. It’s not
the only Army Corps project in the majority leader’s district
that got major funding. Lake Isabella in Kern County is getting
$258 million for a dam safety modification project.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Rep. Doris Matsui’s office
announced that the [Sacramento] region has been allocated
nearly $1.8 billion to strengthen levees and raise Folsom Dam.
… In total, the Army Corps allocated $17 billion for
flood projects around the country Thursday, as part of a
congressional appropriation in February.
The Diversion Pool below Oroville Dam and the trails on both
sides of it will be partially open Friday through the Fourth of
July, the Department of Water Resources announced Wednesday.
The report came during a conference call to update media on the
status of work to repair the spillways, which were heavily
damaged in February 2017.
The Senate on Monday approved a $145 billion spending bill to
fund the Energy Department and veterans’ programs for the next
budget year. … The bill includes $43.8 billion for energy and
water programs, including programs to ensure nuclear stockpile
readiness and spur innovation in energy research. The bill also
funds flood-control projects and addresses regional ports and
The Army Corps of Engineers announced Monday that the
additional money would be available to the Hamilton City Flood
Damage Reduction and Ecosystem Restoration Project in the
current fiscal year. … It is the first in the
nation being constructed under the Corps’ guidelines to develop
projects that include both flood risk reduction and ecosystem
An excavator slid down the Oroville Dam spillway slope on
Sunday morning, resulting in minor injuries to its operator,
the state Department of Water Resources confirmed on Wednesday.
Erin Mellon, assistant director of public affairs for DWR, said
that the operator immediately got back to work after the
accident, which is currently under investigation by the
department and Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., the lead
contractor for the construction project.
Two bills proposed by Assemblyman James Gallagher, one of which
would have taken the State Water Project from the state
Department of Water Resources and another which would have
provided funding for school resource officers, failed on Friday
to pass through the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
The second and final phase of reconstruction continues at the
Oroville Dam spillways. … A flight over the location last
week during a break in Butte County Sheriff’s Office helicopter
training exercise, showed that much original concrete at the
top of the chute has been removed, along with the walls.
While work to repair the main Oroville Dam spillway will
largely be done by Nov. 1, in response to a question, the
Department of Water Resources clarified that work on the
emergency spillway will continue into 2019.
Construction work began just after midnight Tuesday morning on
phase 2 of the repairs to the Oroville Dam main spillway. The
Department of Water Resources had been granted permission by
federal and state regulators to start work May 8, and
contractor Kiewit Infrastructure West didn’t waste any time.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently told north
state congressmen Doug LaMalfa and John Garamendi that the
agency is still reviewing whether the state Department of Water
Resources is eligible for further reimbursement to fix the
Oroville Dam spillway.
Since the 1940s, the Hawaiian island of Kauai has endured two
tsunamis and two hurricanes, but locals say they have never
experienced anything like the thunderstorm that drenched the
island this month. “The rain gauge in Hanalei broke at 28
inches within 24 hours,” said state Rep. Nadine Nakamura of the
North Shore community.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
This three-day, two-night tour 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 is the focus of this tour.
Best Western McCarran Inn
4970 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89119
This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries
through a scenic landscape as participants learned 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. Tour
participants got an on-site update of repair efforts on the
Oroville Dam spillway.
Participants of this tour snaked along the San Joaquin River to
learn firsthand about one of the nation’s largest and most
expensive river restoration projects.
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 Users Authority and a coalition of environmental
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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.