The California Department of Water Resources has opened an emergency spillway at the Oroville Dam for the first time since it was constructed in 1968.
The emergency spillway was opened after the water at the dam, the nation’s tallest, reached a height of 901 feet above sea level. The water spilled out over a concrete berm and down a ruddy muddy hillside, past trees and rocks and into the Feather River, where it joins water that is still flowing down the dam’s regular, adjacent concrete spillway.
The normal spillway suffered massive damage recently in the form of a giant concrete hole that continues to widen as officials scramble to save salmon that have become trapped by the hole and its muddy waters.
Officials say that they do not expect the dam to fail, nor do they expect property damage downstream, though they are still struggling to deal with the effects of what may turn out to be California’s wettest winter in recorded history. Lake Oroville, the state’s second-largest behind Lake Shasta, became a symbol of the state’s crippling five-year drought as it dipped to dangerous levels. Now, it is a symbol of the state’s abundant rainfall — and the ongoing challenges of dealing with runoff and snow melt.
Bill Croyle, acting director of the California Department of Water Resources, told the East Bay Times that the state could not guarantee there would be no flooding if there was another large “atmospheric river” storm bringing moisture from the Pacific. He said that the emergency spillway had been opened to minimize damage to the main spillway, which he said would cost $100 to $200 million to fix.
Southern California Public Radio’s KPCC reported that the emergency spillway was opened at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, and that it would remain open for 38 to 56 hours.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.