Feb 16

Grandchildren in Oroville Crisis

Pray for my grandchildren as they are in the midst of a looming natural disaster. In the early 1960s, thousands of construction workers came to Oroville, in the Northern California with their families, to help build the largest earth-fill dam in the world. It is an earth fill embankment dam located on the east of the city of Oroville, California in the USA. It is the tallest dam in the United States at 770 feet (235 m) high.

oroville dam construction

Mainly it serves as hydroelectricity generation, flood control, and water supply. The dam impounds Lake Oroville, that is the second largest human-made lake in the California State, that can store more than 3.5 million acre-feet (4.4 km3).

The purpose behind the construction of Oroville Dam was to provide electric power, recreation, flood control, and water to the residents of California. 34 construction workers paid with their lives for the successful completion of the project.


From the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta into the State Water Project’s California Aqueduct the Oroville Dam has allocated the flow of the Feather River since its completion in 1968, which does not only provide the industrial water supplies to coastal Southern California but also provides a major supply of water for irrigation in the San Joaquin Valley, and has prevented large amounts of flood damage to the area.

It holds back a reservoir containing 1.1 trillion gallons of water, supplying cities and farms across the state. It is an important piece of infrastructure.

The sad news is that now the aging dam has become a severe threat.

My grandson and Oroville resident, Scott Plourde tells us that his family was aware of the break in the dam but it took a couple days before there was major evacuation put on notice to everyone.

About 188,000 people around Oroville were ordered by the authorities on Sunday to evacuate their homes over concerns that the nearby towns and roads could have been flooded due to the dam’s emergency spillway failure and an onrush of water out of the reservoir.

lake oroville ca

The condition was severe enough that Gov. Jerry Brown ordered an emergency response while there was no sign that the dam itself will collapse. And, while things had stabilized somewhat by Monday, the crisis isn’t over yet.

The reasons due to which the Dam’s spillway came to the brink of failure:


Northern California has been drenched by the winter storms and atmospheric rivers over the last few weeks that have filled its reservoirs to the brim. By February, the normal capacity of Oroville Reservoir was at 151 percent.

While all that rain that appeared helpful for the state’s brutal five-year drought created a new problem: too much water.

Typically, a spillway is added to the dams so that they can handle the overflow. Managers have the rights to release the excess in a controlled manner through a huge concrete chute next to the dam when the water reaches a certain level at the Oroville Reservoir that sends the water into the Feather River.

The problem is that the main spillway of the Dam has damaged severely. On February 7, the concrete crumbled and water started flying everywhere due to a giant hole that suddenly opened in the chute. The managers were disinclined to send water racing down this main spillway, lest the damage get worse.

But the water levels in the Oroville Reservoir didn’t stop from rising, and it had to go somewhere. So, water began pouring over the top of auxiliary or “emergency” spillway for the first time in the dam’s 50-year history.

oroville dam flood

It would be one of the worst environmental disasters caused by this flood to northern California.

So, 188,000 people in the vicinity were warned by the officials to get out- and fast.

Some of the evacuees are sleeping in their cars while thousands are staying in hotels, with friends. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is scrambling to provide water, blankets, and coats.

What’s the current state of Oroville Dam?

The situation has stabilized somewhat by the Monday but the crisis isn’t over yet due to which the residents near Oroville still can’t return home.

After inspecting the damaged main spillway, the managers have concluded that it could handle the larger water flows, even with the great hole.

Noting that the danger has not yet passed that California officials urged people to continue evacuating. On Wednesday or Thursday, the region is expecting more storms, and the workers are rushing to fortify the emergency spillway before more water starts pouring over the side due to the rise of water.

The infrastructure of the dam is in bad shape:

It shouldn’t be a huge surprise that the dam is experiencing wear and tear as it was built in the 1960s. A handful of environmental groups warned back in 2005 that the dam does not meet the modern safety standards for severe flooding. As part of the relicensing process for the dam’s hydroelectric plant, they urged federal officials to mandate concrete fortifications along the auxiliary spillway.

The situation of the dam will become more severe if the managers still failed to take any serious action.

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