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Here is a Video You Can See Clicking the Link Above
BY RYAN SABALOW, DALE KASLER AND PETER HECHT
For three weeks, Oroville Dam’s fractured main spillway and the surrounding hillsides have taken a nearly nonstop pounding. The stunning waterfall crashing down what’s left of the 3,000-foot concrete span has split the spillway in two and carved massive canyons on either side.
The Department of Water Resources, which operates the dam, has had little choice. The state agency had to force water down the damaged spillway to avert a potentially catastrophic “wall of water” from pouring out of Lake Oroville when the reservoir filled to the brim Feb. 12 – and dam operators watched in horror as the hillside below the never-before-used emergency spillway started to wash away. That sparked the frantic two-day evacuation of 188,000 downstream residents.
In the weeks since, the state has continued to blast water onto the battered main spillway, albeit in reduced volumes, to reduce water levels in the immense reservoir that sits behind the earthen dam. Lake Oroville – the state’s second-largest reservoir – has receded to the levels required this time of year to absorb a huge rainstorm.
So, with at least five more weeks to go in California’s rainy season, and billions of gallons of water waiting to rush into the reservoir when the snowpack blanketing the Sierra Nevada melts this spring, the question on the minds of many living in the Sacramento Valley is this:
Just how long can the badly damaged spillway hold up?
In practical terms, DWR officials are hoping the spillway can operate in its hobbled state through the rainy season, which this year is on pace to break records. Typically, the season stretches into April. According to several independent experts contacted by The Sacramento Bee, that appears to be a realistic goal.
Even with a fissure as long as a football field cutting across the midsection of the structure, they say the damaged chute appears strong enough to make it through spring. The top two-thirds of the span, including its critical release gates, appears to be undamaged. And the bottom third, while broken up, appears to sit on stable rock.
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