State knew Oroville Spillway could fail 12 years ago

Article from KCRA. – click for video

Updated: 9:38 PM PST Feb 13, 2017
By David Manoucheri, Investigative Producer

OROVILLE, Calif. (KCRA) — Reports filed in 2005 show that the Department of Water Resources, DWR, was warned that a failure of the emergency spillway could be catastrophic.

William Croyle, acting head of DWR, told KCRA-3 Investigates that he is “unfamiliar with the information in that 2005 documentation.”

The documents, filed in 2005 when DWR was looking to renew its license to operate the Oroville hydroelectric dam, showed grave concern about using the emergency spillway for flood control.

“For me it was eerily prophetic,” says Ron Stork, with Friends of the River, the organization which filed the brief with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The brief said that DWR “takes a minimalist approach to flood control issues…this pushes the discussion of necessary modifications to the auxiliary (emergency) spillway on Oroville Dam to a future which will likely only happen in the event of a disaster.”

Stork said that their warnings were proven true this weekend.

The filings also say, “Utilizing such a spillway has the potential to cause severe damage to the downstream hillside, project facilities, and downstream environments located in the path of the flood release.” This is exactly what happened with the spillway this weekend, according to Stork.

Stork wants DWR to not only look at what went wrong or what they knew but also add a full concrete spillway, since this is being used for flood control. Otherwise, he said the same thing could happen again.

“Both the department and its regulator … have to just man up and own up to this job and recognize that they have to have a safe dam that they can operate confidently,” Stork said.

Gov. Jerry Brown said he wasn’t previously aware of a report that surfaced Monday. He said he’s glad he found out about the report and added that it was not part of previous records he had seen.

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