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Oroville Dam Update: Water Levels Lower Despite Additional Rainfall
Published: February 19, 2017
Matthew Prumm, 34, lives just blocks away from the levee and told the AP he had to leave after spending a restless night worrying about what could happen to him if the dam fails.
"I tried to sleep here last night, and I just couldn't sleep," Prumm says, adding that friends kept pressuring him to "get the hell out."
California Department of Water Resources Chief Bill Croyle said water was draining at about four times the rate that it was flowing in and the repairs should hold at the nation's tallest dam.
At the height of the storms, Lake Oroville water levels reached a level so high that an emergency spillway was used for the first time in its 48-year history.
Workers hoisted huge white bags filled with rocks, and at least two helicopters will fly them to where they will be released in the spillway's erosion, reports the AP. Dump trucks full of boulders also are dumping their cargo into the gaping hole on the damaged spillway.
Report Indicates Officials Were Warned Dam's Weakness
Environmental activists and local government officials warned more than a decade ago of the risk of catastrophic flooding below the Oroville Dam, according to a recently released report.
At the time, state and federal regulators dismissed those fears, saying it was unnecessary to reinforce the dam with concrete.
Recent events at Oroville Dam have brought that 2005 decision under scrutiny.
According to the Associated Press, during a relicensing process for the dam in 2005, environmental groups demanded that the dam be reinforced with concrete or boulders. They feared catastrophic erosion from water escaping when the reservoir was cresting over full capacity.
A final environmental impact report dated June 2008 said there were no "significant concerns" about the hillside's stability.
"I think that the warning that was given should have been taken with the utmost seriousness," said Bob Wright, an attorney at Friends of the River, an environmental group that joined forces with the Sierra Club and South Yuba River Citizens League.
Both Bill Croyle, acting head of the Department of Water Resources, and Gov. Jerry Brown said they were unaware of the warnings, noting that decisions are based on the recommendations of state engineers.
"They tell us what we need and we do it," Brown said."But we live in a world of risk. Stuff happens and we respond."
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