Dam managers made missteps in handling crisis

Repairs at Lake Oroville carry quarter billion dollar pricetag

In February, authorities ordered the evacuation of 188,000 people downstream after surging releases of water tore away big chunks of the main spillway and then the dam's second, emergency spillway.

"DWR is implementing its recovery plan to ensure the system can safely accommodate potentially heavy inflows from the Feather River watershed to Lake Oroville and subsequent releases from the lake", the agency said in a news release. The state water agency's acting director, William Croyle, says in a statement that the flow of water down the emergency spillway is well below what it was created to handle, and "based on our current situation, there is no threat".

Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, has been awarded the contract to fix the spillways at Oroville Dam.

State water officials say the crisis was managed as effectively as possible.

All the while, the reservoir behind the dam kept rising, reaching the highest level in the structure's history, because of one of the biggest storms in two decades. He orders the immediate evacuation of almost 200,000 people.

Among other things, the dam's federal and state overseers overestimated the durability of the two spillways.

The complete recovery or replacement of the spillways will be done in multiple phases “due to the enormity of the project and the time limitations of the construction season, ” DWR says.

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On Feb. 7, a massive crack opened in the main spillway at the dam. The state agency "has earned a grade of "F" on its ability to timely and completely communicate during this incident", Administrator Mark Sorensen writes. That could lead to devastating flooding downstream.

A federally ordered investigation is under way into the crisis. Repairs are scheduled to begin immediately to have the system operational by November 1st, the traditional start of the next rainy season.

"It's kind of the hindsight thing", he said. Later that afternoon, Honea, the sheriff, learns the emergency spillway is breaking apart.

Democrats in the U.S. House want the auditing arm of Congress to review dam safety standards following a crisis at the nation's tallest dam.

"The Oroville Dam failure did not come without warning", they said in a letter to the Government Accountability Office.

In 2014, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission affirmed the safety of both spillways and said there was no point in studying or discussing whether the possibility of either could fail, state officials told AP.

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