Race Against Rain: Oroville Dam Must Drain 50 Feet by Wednesday

Oroville DamOfficials are releasing water from the Oroville Dam, the nation’s highest, at the astonishing rate of 100,000 cubic feet per second, with the goal of lowering the lake’s elevation by 50 feet before a week of rain and snow hits the region Wednesday.

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At a press conference Sunday night, law enforcement and California Department of Water Resources officials announced that they had released enough water to stop flow over the emergency spillway, reducing the risk of erosion and structural collapse. The lake dropped below its maximum height of 901 feet above sea level, and was continuing to subside, officials reported.

However, water was continuing to flow into the lake behind the dam at a rate of 40,000 cubic feet per second, the result of runoff and snow melt from weeks of heavy precipitation after five years of drought. As a result, the dam would need to be drained as quickly as possible over the next 72 hours. The maximum release rate is about 150,000 cubic feet per second, though officials are reluctant to release water down the main spillway at that rate because of the risk of structural damage.

Already, the main concrete spillway has developed a large hole, which officials estimate will cost $100 to $200 million to fix. The adjacent emergency spillway, which drains onto an unpaved hillside of soil, rocks and trees, has also developed a hole  that could result in structural failure and that officials may have to plug by dropping rocks from helicopters. If the emergency spillway does collapse, it could lose 30 feet in height, releasing a wall of water into the Feather River below, which drains into the Sacramento River. That poses a severe risk to communities below the dam, including the state capital of Sacramento.

Officials issued an emergency evacuation order Sunday afternoon, warning that the emergency spillway was expected to collapse within an hour. That led to massive traffic jams as residents drove northward towards Chico. Though the spillway remains intact for now, nearly 200,000 residents from Oroville and surrounding communities remain under evacuation.

California Gov. Jerry Brown issued an emergency order Sunday evening and indicated that the state was managing the relief effort.

Officials also said they were cooperating with the federal government. Separately, Gov. Brown had asked President Donald Trump for federal emergency relief funds to address damage to the state done by storms earlier this year.

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.

This piece was originally published by Breitbart.com/California


  1. I am amazed that mankind allowed this to happen since mankind can control mother nature and climate. A very serious issue for all impacted families.

  2. DR Richard Muccillo says

    you can thank baldy for this and the chemtrails –not nice to fool with MOTHER NATURE–and they still have not learned –today more chemtrails altering the weather and poisoning the people

  3. J. Richards Garcia says

    Many have no confidence Governor Brown and the State Department of Water have any serious concern about any dams in California, or anywhere else. They are politically-correct greenies and have refused to provide additional water for Californians for many years. In fact, they want to take down existing dams and transfer the remaining water in northern California to southern California through 2 large delta water tunnels.
    Also, it’s odd the Water department and Governor Brown refuse to ease up on drought restrictions despite the fact we have so much water, California’s largest dam might burst at any moment, possibly drowning 200,000 people, drowning a huge number of livestock, destroying water supplies for the entire northern California, and cause devastating economic damage throughout the state.
    Isn’t it also odd that Gov. Brown demands that President Trump not control illegal immigration into the state, which is a large cause of drought controls.
    Remember the movie Hunger Games starring Jennifer Lawrence. We’re in a real Water Games risking the entire state of California.
    It’s much worse than you think. If Governor Brown was serious, he would immediately propose building 2 dams nearby, then repair Oroville and put Oroville back on-line. Don’t hold your breath.
    Do you know when Gov. Brown is lying? Is his mouth moving?
    Don’t let Gov. Brown hoodwink you, he doesn’t care about California water. Write Brown today complaining. Write every democrat politician in the state demanding removal of Gov. Brown before sundown on Friday.
    Governor Brown should be recalled yesterday.

  4. Skeptical Rick says

    This latest ‘crisis’ demonstrates that Brown, Jr. and his followers have skimped on maintenance of the state’s vital water infrastructure, which is approaching 60 years old in the case of Oroville and the California Aqueduct system. As with highways and buildings, public infrastructure will deteriorate from neglect and insufficient funds. These problems at the Oroville Dam should never have occurred, anymore than the frequent water main breakages in the city of Los Angeles for lack of an adequate maintenance program. Mechanical items will not work indefinitely.

  5. Does this prove that Guv Brown and all the luddite environmentalists were right about building dams?

  6. Amazingly, I haven’t heard anyone address what the heck happened to the over $7 BILLION in water bonds passed by voters in 2014?
    I’ve heard from a dam expert that said $200-300 million of grouting could have prevented the Oroville main spillway from failing.

    Gov Brown had a news conference on the dam. Did anyone bother to ask him where the bond money went?

    Meanwhile Brown has reportedly spent $25 Billion on illegal aliens.

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