Oroville Dam is the centerpiece and largest water storage
facility of the State Water Project. Located about 70 miles north
of Sacramento at the Feather River confluence, Oroville Dam
creates a reservoir that can hold 3.5 million acre-feet of water.
Features such as a fish barrier dam and pool at Oroville Dam made
the SWP one of the first major water projects built with
environmental protections as a major consideration.
Besides storing water, the dam also protects downstream residents
from the floodprone Feather River—the main feeder of the SWP— and
provides major water recreation facilities such as boating,
fishing and camping.
The California Department of Water Resources still has
unfinished business at Lake Oroville, despite completion of
major construction on the spillways earlier this year following
the 2017 events that triggered more than 180,000 people living
downstream to evacuate.
The deadliest and most destructive
wildfire in California history had a severe impact on the water
system in the town of Paradise. Participants on our Oct. 2-4
Tour will hear from Kevin Phillips, general manager of
Paradise Irrigation District, on the scope of the damages, the
obstacles to recovery and the future of the water district.
The Camp Fire destroyed 90 percent of the structures in Paradise,
and 90 percent of the irrigation district’s ratepayer base. The
fire did not destroy the irrigation district’s water storage or
treatment facilities, but it did melt plastic pipes, releasing
contaminants into parts of the system and prompting do-not-drink
advisories to water customers.
When the salmon are healthy, the world is healthy. That means
the waters are clean and fast-running and the bottom gravel is
clean. It means the rivers … are pouring as they should into
our oceans, bringing nutrients and sediments into the salt- and
Steven and Cindy Bolt couldn’t have been happier. For the first
time since February of 2017 and the Oroville Dam spillway
crisis they could launch their houseboat from the spillway’s
boat ramp. “It’s been our favorite place to come,” said Cindy.
“And it’s been a long time.”
The Lake Oroville Dam spillway boat ramp will officially reopen
to the public (at least, on a partial basis) on Friday — more
than two and a half years after it was closed in the aftermath
of the spillway incident in February 2017.
In the appeal, DWR included updated reimbursement requests
totaling an estimated $1.11 billion to cover costs of the
Oroville spillways emergency response and emergency recovery
efforts. Final costs won’t be known until all project work is
complete, according to DWR officials.
It’s not unusual to spot the national bird flying around Lake
Oroville every summer. What’s unusual this year is the amount
currently calling Lake Oroville home. Environmental scientists
from the Department of Water Resources Oroville Field Division
are keeping an eye on seven nesting pairs of bald eagles, four
of which are successfully raising a total of eight young
It is a telling illustration of the precarious state of United
States dams that the near-collapse in February 2017 of Oroville
Dam, the nation’s tallest, occurred in California, considered
one of the nation’s leading states in dam safety management.
On the last Saturday in June, a road in Butte County was
opened. That in itself isn’t anything unusual. Roads are opened
and closed regularly around here. But it was the significance
of this road that makes it a remarkable occurrence. It was the
road over Oroville Dam.
In 2016 California’s rainy season kicked off right on schedule,
at the beginning of October. … By February there was so much
water filling Northern California’s rivers that Oroville Dam,
the tallest in the country, threatened to break after its
spillway and emergency spillways both failed. It was a wake-up
call. In just a few months California had gone from
five-year-drought to deluge, ending up with the second wettest
year on record for the state.
Oroville Dam is officially back open to the public two years
after it was forced to close due to the failure of the dam’s
main and emergency spillways. People can now walk and bike the
more than one-mile-long road across the dam crest. Public
vehicles will still not be allowed.
There are more concerns over lake levels in Oroville as Butte
County leaders take initiative to explore alternative options
for safety measures. The Department of Water Resources (DWR), a
leg of the State Water Project, manages the Oroville Dam. On
Wednesday, DWR officials remained adamant in saying they have
no plans to release water from the Oroville Dam spillway.
Well, apparently we’re all about to die again. The internet
says so. And while the internet often says we’re all about to
die, and we don’t, for some reason people still unquestionably
believe the next scare to come down the information highway. So
it is with the latest local scare, involving the Oroville Dam
Specifically, the Feather River Recovery Alliance is asking
FERC to not reissue a license to the state Department of Water
Resources to operate the Oroville Dam until terms of the
agreement are renegotiated, including a new recreation plan.
The group says it received 6,469 local signatures on the
It worked. Oroville Dam’s main flood-control spillway reopened
for business Tuesday morning, releasing a gentle sheet of water
into the Feather River for the first time since the 2017 crisis
that sent 188,000 people fleeing for their lives. … It was a
far cry from the scene two years ago, when the massive sinkhole
in the spillway turned water releases into an angry, boiling
Officials predict they might need to open the gates to move
water that accumulated during the wet winter season from the
reservoir down into the Feather River. … Amy Rechenmacher, an
associate professor of engineering practice at USC, said the
spillway’s use is going to be a big test for the agency and
engineers who worked on the project.
Water may cascade down Oroville Dam’s rebuilt spillway next
week for the first time since a massive crater formed in its
nearly half-mile long surface two years ago — a major milestone
in the saga that triggered the evacuation of 188,000 people and
a $1.1 billion repair job to the country’s tallest dam. A storm
forecast to hit this week is expected to fill Lake Oroville to
the point that state dam operators might need to open the
An engineer with 20-plus years experience working on dams fears
the Oroville dam could be in trouble again. He says the same
problem which led to the failure of the main spillway in 2017
is still happening. … Now, expert Scott Cahill told News
Radio KFBK, water can be seen seeping from the foot of the dam
and dozens of points along the new spillway.
FEMA said that a wide range of pre-existing problems
contributed to the deterioration of both the upper and lower
sections of the massive concrete spillway. The agency argues
that federal law, regulations and policy restrict payments only
to work needed to fix damage stemming from a declared disaster.
Dozens of computer coding teams from around San Joaquin County
were tasked to create an app in roughly seven hours. The issue:
following the destruction caused by the malfunction of the
Oroville Dam in February 2017 and the evacuation of more than
180,000 people, could there be an app that can track dam
leakage, seismic activity and other structural impacts and
communicate with the appropriate individuals to help deter
Blockbuster claims in a lawsuit that a racist, sexist, corrupt
culture contributed to the near-catastrophic failure of
Oroville Dam two years ago can go forward, a Sacramento judge
ruled Thursday. The decision … sets the stage for what
plaintiffs’ attorneys vow will be a deep dive into claims of a
poisonous work culture that nearly disastrously compromised the
nation’s tallest dam.
California’s state water agency is set to appeal a federal
determination that some of the Oroville Dam’s reconstruction
costs are ineligible for reimbursement. The Federal Emergency
Management Agency last week approved an additional $205 million
for the project, on top of the $128.4 million it sent last
year, according to the state Department of Water Resources. But
FEMA officials told the state they likely won’t fund some
portions of the 2-year, estimated $1.1 billion rebuilding
effort that followed the Oroville Dam’s near-failure in
Millions of Californians could end up with higher water bills
after the Trump administration on Friday announced that federal
emergency officials aren’t going to reimburse the state for
$306 million in repairs to Oroville Dam stemming from the 2017
spillway crisis. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said
federal taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for problems that
existed prior to a massive hole forming in the dam’s concrete
spillway in February 2017…
The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved $205 million
to reimburse California for the Oroville Dam spillway
reconstruction costs, the state Department of Water Resources
announced Thursday. … However, FEMA has notified DWR that it
doesn’t think some of the reconstruction costs are eligible for
Water is starting to seep down the rebuilt Oroville Dam
spillway. California Department of Water Resources officials
said Wednesday this is common and will not affect the operation
of the dam’s gates, which are not watertight. … Both
spillways at the 770-foot earthen dam, the nation’s tallest,
collapsed in February 2017, forcing nearly 200,000 people
downstream to evacuate.
This past December, DWR reconnected electricity to the Ronald
B. Robie Thermalito Pumping-Generating Plant in Oroville, a
major step towards returning the plant to full operation. A
fire in November 2012 destroyed the plant’s operating capacity,
requiring closure of the facility and its disconnection from
the state’s electrical grid. …
Lake Oroville, currently at 773-foot elevation, could rise to
780-785 feet by the end of the month based on current
projections. DWR and crews with Kiewit Infrastructure West Co.,
the contractor for the spillways construction project, would
remove equipment from the main spillway if the lake elevation
reached 780 feet.
Major dams in California are five times more likely to flood
this century than the last one due to global warming, a new
study finds, possibly leading to overtopping and catastrophic
failures that threaten costly repairs and evacuations. That
means Californians can expect more disasters like the Oroville
Dam, whose overflow channel failed in 2017 after days of
flooding had filled state reservoirs to 85% of their capacity.
Lawyers representing the state Department of Water Resources
will make their case Friday for striking portions of lawsuits
over the spillway crisis filed by the city of Oroville, several
farms, businesses and other plaintiffs. The state is arguing
that certain “inflammatory and irrelevant” allegations should
be removed from the lawsuits, including allegations about
racist actions, sexual harassment and petty theft by DWR
employees and conspiracy to cover up or destroy documents.
Thursday marks two years since the first hole opened up in the
Oroville Dam Spillway, triggering an emergency that forced the
evacuation of nearly 200,000 people. … The new emergency
spillway is covered with roller-compacted concrete that looks
like a giant staircase. It is one of the biggest changes during
the reconstruction of the spillway project.
Workers were patching Oroville Dam’s weathered concrete
spillway, nearly four years before a massive crater would tear
it open. Michael Hopkins, an employee at the Department of
Water Resources, alleges he saw something he would never
forget. A legally deaf woman was assigned to drive a truck
down the spillway and listen for hollow sounds in the concrete
as her colleagues performed what’s known as “chain drag
testing,” Hopkins wrote in a declaration filed last week in
Sacramento Superior Court.
Several areas of the Oroville Dam and lake are undergoing
extensive renovations and improvements, and the Oroville
Recreation Advisory Committee met Friday to hear reports from
the various member organizations overseeing them.
… Aaron Wright of the California Department of Parks and
Recreation said that several of the recently reopened areas
near the dam have received a good amount of traffic.
The earthquakes hit just days after last year’s
near-catastrophe at Oroville Dam, when the spillway cracked
amid heavy rains and 188,000 people fled in fear of flooding.
The timing of the two small tremors about 75 miles north of
Sacramento was curious, and frightening.
The new year will mark a half-century since a “seismic” shift
in geology unfolded. Eldridge Moores was a key thinker in that
shift. … I [Craig Miller] got another dose of that
enduring youthfulness two years ago, chasing after him as he
led me – at a brisk pace — down to the Yuba River bank.
We were in search of the kind of “incompetent” rock that
contributed to the catastrophic collapse of two spillways at
Dam inspectors overlooked technical details during safety
evaluations that could have identified structural problems with
the Oroville Dam spillway before it broke during heavy rains in
February 2017, according to an assessment ordered by the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FERC assembled an
independent, six-person panel to assess the safety inspections
that are required every five years for the roughly 2,500
hydropower facilities that FERC regulates.
Employees of the state Department of Water Resources, with the
help of firefighting crews, were cutting brush and watering
down landscapes around Lake Oroville to prevent the
117,000-acre blaze from damaging the reservoir’s
infrastructure, including the 770-foot-tall Oroville Dam.
A trial date has been set to hear several lawsuits against the
state Department of Water Resources over the Oroville Dam
crisis. The court scheduled the trial for June 1, 2020 during
the second case management conference Friday in the Sacramento
County Superior Court.
Federal regulators are raising new concerns about the troubled
Oroville Dam, telling California officials their recently
rebuilt flood-control spillways likely couldn’t handle a
mega-flood. Although the chances of such a disastrous storm are
considered extremely unlikely — the magnitude of flooding in
the federal warning is far greater than anything ever
experienced — national dam safety experts say the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission’s concerns could have costly
repercussions for California.
State officials said Wednesday the damaged Oroville Dam
flood-control spillway is ready for the rainy season, and will
be able to fully blast water down its half-mile long concrete
chute for the first time in nearly two years if lake levels
rise. Work on the adjacent emergency spillway is ongoing.
A request from the state Department of Water Resources to
temporarily make more than 50 miles of trails in Oroville open
to multiple user groups has been denied by the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission. DWR proposed this with backing from the
Oroville Recreation Advisory Committee, or ORAC, as a
compensation for trail closures as a result of the 2017
Oroville Dam spillway emergency.
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 Oroville Dam spillway
The state Department of Water Resources still expects to meet
its quickly approaching Nov. 1 deadline to have all concrete
placed on the Oroville Dam’s main spillway. Crews began by
placing permanent concrete slabs at the bottom of the spillway
of the nation’s tallest dam, making their way to the top. Now,
the upper chute is about three-quarters of the way complete,
DWR reported in a moderated media call on Wednesday.
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.
The north side of the Oroville Dam Diversion Pool will be open
to hikers and bicycles for the Labor Day weekend, and the pool
itself will be open for kayakers. … On Saturday from 8
a.m. to noon, a walk guided by State Parks staff will explore
vestiges of pioneer settlements, grandiose Gold Rush schemes,
and the train tunnel during the construction of the dam, as
well as native plants and animals seen along the way.
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.
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.
Another attempt by the state Department of Water Resources to
have the Butte County District Attorney’s lawsuit against the
department thrown out was thwarted Friday. The civil suit stem
from the Oroville Dam crisis and the alleged 3.4 billion to 5.1
billion pounds of debris which fell from the collapsing
spillway into the Feather River in February 2017.
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
Enhancements to several Lake Oroville recreation areas are in
the works this summer as the state Department of Water
Resources makes good on its promise to improve lake access
ahead of the Oroville Dam relicensing. Some means of getting
more people out on the water include adding boat launch lanes
and parking spots and providing free shuttle services.
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.
A local oversight committee will get to have a say as long-term
changes are considered for the Oroville Dam, after Sen. Jim
Nielsen and Assemblyman James Gallagher recently came to an
agreement with the state Department of Water Resources.
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.
An Inland Empire water wholesaler is poised to get a boost in
state funding for its effort to create a new local water supply
that would provide ecological benefits in Northern California.
The California Water Commission has tentatively approved nearly
$207 million in Prop. 1 water bond funds for the Inland Empire
Utilities Agency’s Chino Basin Conjunctive Use Environmental
Water Storage/Exchange Program.
Heading to Lake Oroville for the holiday weekend? It can be
tricky to keep track of what areas are open to the public, with
construction ongoing at the Oroville Dam spillways. To help
with your plans, here is some information on the accessible
trails, boat launches and other recreational areas.
A Butte County Superior Court judge will determine where
lawsuits against the state Department of Water Resources for
the Oroville Dam crisis will be considered in a written ruling.
This comes as Judge Tamara Mosbarger heard arguments on Friday
from plaintiffs and the defendant.
The largest proposal is an $8.8-billion bond for water supply
and storage efforts including water recycling, stormwater
capture, restoring fish habitats and repairing the spillways of
the Oroville Dam that were damaged in 2017.
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 U.S. Senate passed on Monday the 2019 Energy and Water
Development appropriations bill, which requires an
independent risk analysis of Oroville Dam. Additionally, the
bill would order the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to
report the findings of an independent panel reviewing the state
Department of Water Resources’ dam safety practices to the
The state Department of Water Resources announced plans on
Friday to draw Lake Oroville down to 808 feet elevation by
early next week. This is to provide a second point of access to
the upper chute of the Oroville Dam spillway, through the
radial gates, for construction.
The state Department of Water Resources has beefed up its
response to the independent forensic report on what caused the
Oroville Dam spillway failure last year. The report, released
on Jan. 5, described how insufficient maintenance and repairs
and faulty original design allowed water to seep through the
spillway’s cracks and joints. It also blamed “long-term
systemic failure” on the part of DWR, regulators and the dam
safety industry at large.
A lawsuit filed by Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey
against the state Department of Water Resources over
environmental damages resulting from the Oroville Dam spillway
crisis is moving forward in court. Butte County Superior Court
Judge Stephen Benson overruled DWR’s demurrer, which is
essentially a plea to have a case dismissed, through a written
ruling filed on May 31.
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.
Bald eagles booted out of their nest last year during the
Oroville Dam spillway crisis have proven to be quite the
resilient pair, making a new home for themselves and
successfully hatching two little ones. During the incident last
February, the state Department of Water Resources had to
reroute powerlines that used to cross the spillway slope.
The Oroville Strong! advocacy group is going by a new name and
hoping to increase its reach to those in the greater area who
have been affected by the spillway crisis. The new entity
called the Feather River Recovery Alliance will be headed by
some of the same leaders; however, it will be disassociated
from the Oroville Chamber of Commerce.
The opening of the Diversion Pool last weekend to kayakers and
hikers appears to have been a big success according to all
involved, and it may happen again. “We’ve already been
discussing it with our partners and probably will,” State Parks
District Superintendent Aaron Wright said Thursday, “but I
can’t commit to that now.”
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.
Californians this year will vote on not one but two water bond
measures totaling $13 billion. Given that the state still
hasn’t spent all of the $7.5 billion from the Proposition 1
water bond passed in 2014, it raises a crucial question: Does
California really need another $13 billion in water bonds?
In order to get boaters and swimmers back to Lake Oroville
after the Oroville Dam spillway was damaged in 2017, state
agencies have announced they will waive fees for the
recreational area on select days over the summer.
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.
The NOR-CAL Guides and Sportsmen’s Association and other
fishing groups had spent more than a year pressuring state dam
and fish-hatchery managers to raise extra fish to make up for
the ones the fishing groups say were lost after the Oroville
Dam spillway collapsed in February 2017.
A bill proposed by Assemblyman James Gallagher which would take
the State Water Project out of the hands of the state
Department of Water Resources passed unanimously on Tuesday
through a legislative committee. Assembly Bill 3045 passed 15-0
through the Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee and
is now headed to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
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.
The U.S. Geological Survey over the last year has recorded
dozens of weak and shallow earthquakes near Oroville Dam and
its spillways. And nearly all the tremors — including a
magnitude-0.8 quake recorded Wednesday — share the same
designation: “Chemical explosion.”
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
State Parks workers were pulling cable up a launch ramp at
Bidwell Marina Thursday because the water level in Lake
Oroville is on the rise. March’s storms have brought the lake
level up almost 13 feet since the start of the month, according
to the Department of Water Resources website.
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.
On the 90th anniversary of the catastrophic failure of the St.
Francis Dam, dam safety experts worry that the Oroville Dam
crisis showed that some of those crucial lessons have been
forgotten — or were never retained in the first place.
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.
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
Locals who lost business or saw their property value decrease
because of the Oroville Dam crisis are anxious to be reimbursed
through a class action lawsuit filed last week. … There
is a variety of plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit,
including a child care facility, a water ski shop, a ranch and
A year ago, nearly 200,000 Northern California residents were
alarmed by an alert from the state Department of Water
Resources informing them of the potential failure of the
auxiliary spillway at the Oroville Dam. … Everything
department officials do at the Oroville Dam affects our [state
Sen. Jim Nielsen] community — from the water level to the
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
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 prosecutors are seeking up to $51 billion in fines
and penalties against California’s water agency for damage
caused to local river-based wildlife after the Oroville dam
spillway failure last year, officials said.
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.
Nine individuals or entities from Yuba-Sutter are suing the
California Department of Water Resources for more than $27
million in damages suffered as a consequence of the Lake
Oroville spillway crisis last February.
Last winter, California’s Democratic leaders were feeling
cautiously optimistic that they could work with President
Donald Trump to spur desperately needed infrastructure
investment in the state. One year into the Trump
administration, the prospects for bipartisan partnership on the
issue have dimmed.
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.
Local leaders are pressing the state Department of Water
Resources for details on how residents will be involved in the
community needs assessment. Department officials have said that
constructing additional infrastructure at Oroville Dam,
including a second gated spillway and a fully lined emergency
spillway, would be considered as part of the assessment.
The state Department of Water Resources could have lost control
of the spillway radial gates for days during the Oroville Dam
crisis if crucial power lines had gone down, according to
department officials. DWR leaders Cindy Messer and Joel Ledesma
stated this Jan. 10 during a legislative oversight hearing on
the dam at the State Capitol.
After a 5-month stint running California’s Department of Water
Resources, Grant Davis was reappointed Tuesday to his prior job
as general manager of the Sonoma County Water Agency. The Board
of Supervisors, acting as directors of the Water Agency,
unanimously agreed to reinstate Davis, commending him as a
trusted leader with a proven track record in the area.
An investigation into last winter’s near catastrophe at
Oroville Dam uncovered a litany of problems with how the dam
was built and maintained, but one of them stands out: Even as
workers built the dam, they were raising alarms about the
eroded, crumbling rock on which they were directed to lay
concrete for the 3,000-foot-long main flood control spillway.
The city of Oroville filed a lawsuit against the state
Department of Water Resources Wednesday which alleges
fabricated maintenance reports, racial discrimination and
decades of mismanagement led to the Oroville Dam spillway
failure last February.
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.
The verdict is in and California stands convicted of gross
negligence in the construction and maintenance of the nation’s
highest dam, Oroville. The dam on the Feather River came very
close to failing last year, forcing the evacuation of a
quarter-million people living downstream. … Clearly, for
decades there was no willingness at DWR [California Department
of Water Resources] to acknowledge the fundamental nature of
the flaws and spend money to repair them.
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
Starting with the damaged Oroville Dam, California seemed to
careen from disaster to disaster in 2017. The dam’s spillway
alone is projected to cost more than $500 million to repair.
… [Gov. Jerry] Brown maintains that the state will face more
weather-related extremes in years ahead because of climate
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
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 Oroville Dam spillway crisis this past February is still
under investigation – all sorts of investigations, including
concerns about vegetation and cracking. Officials say the
problems have been mitigated, plus, this water year might not
be as wet as last.
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.
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.
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.
Oroville’s mayor said Thursday she knew about cracks in the
replacement spillway at the troubled dam nearby and is not
concerned, but heaped criticism on state water officials for
failing to communicate with her town. Linda Dahlmeier said the
Department of Water Resources should have proactively
communicated that cracks were expected but has instead created
a “firestorm” in a community that was rattled by sudden
evacuation orders last February.
Politicians and river guides are calling upon the state
Department of Water Resources to mitigate sediment build up in
the Feather River following the Oroville Dam
crisis. … The state Department of Water Resources
is currently assessing the impacts of sediment on the river
system, with the study expected to be complete in December,
said Jon Ericson, acting division chief for the division of
Hairline cracks have been detected in sections of the newly
reconstructed flood-control spillway at Oroville Dam. State and
federal officials said they’re confident the cracks don’t pose
a safety problem and don’t need to be repaired.
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
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.
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.
Reps. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, and Doug LaMalfa,
R-Richvale, Monday introduced to a bill that would require the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to conduct an additional
environmental review of the Oroville Dam. The congressmen would
like to see a review done before the commission approves the
relicensing of the dam under state Department of Water
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
California is launching an overall safety review of the
nation’s tallest dam to pinpoint any needed upgrades in the
half-century-old structure, water officials said Wednesday,
launching the kind of overarching review called for by an
independent national panel of experts in September following
the collapse of two spillways at Oroville Dam.
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.
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.
Survey results largely showed that respondents weren’t happy
with how things went down this past February at the Lake
Oroville spillways and the events that followed. Most
respondents expressed their concerns were with the California
Department of Water Resources.
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.
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
The state Department of Water Resources intends to open the
spillway boat launch ramp after construction at the dam is
complete, but there is a possibility it will stay out of
commission, according to a department official. The spillway
boat launch is the largest on the lake, with up to 12 lanes
when the water is high enough.
With just more than two weeks until the initial reconstruction
of the main spillway at Lake Oroville is supposed to be
completed, the Department of Water Resources released
operations plan for the reservoir for this coming flood season.
In February, a huge hole opened in the Lake Oroville main
spillway. The cause of the hole is still undetermined. …
State and federal agencies devised a plan to quickly repair or
replace the structures at the lake.
The north state assemblyman who represents Oroville, where the
threat of a dam collapse in February forced 188,000 downstream
residents to evacuate, is racing to tighten inspection
standards before the end of the legislative session Friday
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.
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.
Faulty design, construction and repairs of the main Oroville
Dam spillway allowed water to seep under its floor and build
up, lifting a concrete slab Feb. 7 into the water flowing down
the chute, starting a chain of events that largely wrecked the
Bad design and construction of the tallest U.S. dam a
half-century ago and inadequate state and federal oversight
since then led to a disastrous spillway collapse in February,
an independent national team of dam safety experts said Tuesday
as they urged tougher safety reviews nationwide.
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.
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
It’s been six months since a failure of the Oroville Dam
Spillway led to the evacuation nearly 200,000 people, including
hundreds who took refuge at an evacuation center at the Nevada
County Fairgrounds as well as hotels in the Grass Valley and
Nevada City area.
A man has been sentenced to 13 years in state prison after
pleading no contest to charges he broke into an Oroville market
during the Oroville Dam spillway evacuations in February, Butte
County District Attorney Mike Ramsey announced Friday.
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.