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Published: Wed, February 15, 2017
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Oroville Dam spillway incident one of many in U.S. history


Asked about the condition of San Diego dams after Sunday's mass evacuation in Oroville in Northern California, department officials told City News Service that they hired independent experts in dam design, construction and safety to perform detailed inspections of the dams in February of previous year.

However, if the spillways totally failed, billions of gallons of water would have flowed from the lake and flooded three counties.

The evacuation order for about 200,000 residents entered a third day Tuesday.

Almost 200,000 Californians faced an indefinite stay in shelters on Tuesday as engineers worked around the clock to fix the United States' tallest dam before more rain arrives.

The barrier at the nation's tallest dam is being repaired after authorities ordered the evacuation of almost 200,000 people for everyone living below the lake amid concerns the spillway could fail and send water roaring downstream. In an effort to contain the damage, they slowed the outflow from the main spillway, letting the lake rise.

Several rainstorms forecast to soak northern California starting late Wednesday could pose problems for crews scrambling to fix the damaged emergency spillway at the Lake Oroville Dam. That would put the lake level a little more than 40 feet below the top of the spillway, and provide some wiggle room for the level to increase during the next round of storms. A hole had been discovered in the hillside below the wall, eroding quickly in the direction of the lake. The primary spillway is also damaged, but it is still useable, officials said.

Residents below the dam were ordered to evacuate their homes Sunday when an emergency spillway that acts as an automatic overflow channel appeared on the brink of collapse from severe erosion.

Lake Oroville is the keystone of the State Water Project, which sends Northern California water hundreds of miles south to the southern San Joaquin Valley and the Southland. Kory Honea said no crimes have been reported so far.

"Prior warnings to make safety improvements to the dam's structures may well have averted this crisis if they had been heeded", said Adrienne Alvord, Western States director of the Union of Concerned Scientists in a statement. That rare moment, it turns out, would've been right now.

According to The Mercury News, Federal and state officials, as well as some of California's largest water agencies, were warned the damn was at risk of collapse back in 2005.

"I'm not sure anything went wrong", Bill Croyle said. "This was a new, never-happened-before event".

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