Thursday, 23 March, 2017

Oroville Evacuation Order Lifted As Flooding Threats Ease

In for the Long Haul at Oroville Dam Says Water Resources Expert Fears remain after evacuation lifted for 200K Californians
Alfredo Watts | 17 February, 2017, 01:01

But on Sunday, they were proven wrong, and 200,000 people had to be evacuated.

Oroville's Cornucopia Restaurant was serving meals again for the first time in two days after virtually the entire towm fled under an evacuation order Sunday, when officials believed the dam's emergency spillway was in danger of collapsing.

But forecast change change and with three separate storm front predicted to roll through the region by Tuesday, conditions could change.

Earlier today, Butte County sheriff Kory Honea said at a press conference: "When it is safe, based upon the evaluations from DWR and our state and federal partners, then we'll be in a better position as to when to lift the evacuation order".

Some residents are choosing to make the journey home, despite evacuation traffic that extended a one-hour drive into a six-hour journey on Sunday and could make it hard to leave Butte County again.

The Lake Oroville reservoir captures water in northern California, distributing it to agriculture, industry, and homes across the state.

Water is released from the Lake Oroville Dam after an evacuation was ordered for communities downstream from the dam in Oroville, California, Feb. 14, 2017. Residents who were displaced may now return home.

Engineers diverted this water along an unpaved emergency spillway that hadn't been used in nearly 50 years - but this didn't work.

Over the weekend, the swollen lake spilled down the unpaved emergency spillway for almost 40 hours, leaving it badly eroded.

Cheryl LaFleur, chairwoman for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), told reporters Tuesday night the commission is monitoring the Oroville Dam.

An inquiry is already underway, The Christian Science Monitor reported on Tuesday, while repairs will begin in earnest in the spring.

Croyle said teams were working on plans for permanent repairs to the dam's main spillway that could cost as much as $200 million.

The man-made lake feeds into the Feather River, which runs through downtown Oroville and other populated areas that could be devastated by a flood if the spillways were to be further destabilized.

Officials are optimistic that temporary fix efforts will help keep the spillways usable. We're moving around 1,200 tons of rock an hour on the ground and it's being placed as a means of back-filling the erosion that occurred the other day.

In the filing, the water agencies told federal regulators that environmentalists and local officials did not show that the emergency spillway posed a public risk. "It's very hard", said California Governor Jerry Brown.

"Don't know just yet but everyone is still focused on the response phase and getting folks home safely", Brad Alexander, a spokesman with the state's Governor's Office of Emergency Services, said.

"I think you would not be authentic or not honest to say that this somehow doesn't impact you", Day said.