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Oroville Dam spillway flows to resume this week

Jim Stone

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Oroville –  The Department of Water Resources is planning to resume flows this week through Oroville Dam’s damaged main spillway, and warns that Feather River flows will increase to 40,000-50,000 cubic feet per second.

Flows Monday through the stretch of the Feather River past downtown Oroville were 5,200 cfs, DWR said, with another 8,500 cfs entering the river at the Afterbay outlet downstream from town.

In a press release, DWR said the spillway releases will resume “on or around March 17.”

Lake Oroville is rising slowly as runoff and snowmelt is flowing into the lake faster than water can be released through the Hyatt Powerhouse under the dam.

The flow though the five working units of the powerhouse is currently 12,900 cfs, according to the DWR release. Inflow has been fluctuating between about 15,000 cfs and 20,000 cfs, according to the DWR website.

As of 4 p.m. Monday, the lake was at 861.47 feet, up a half-foot in the last 24 hours. There are 2.96 million acre-feet of water in storage, an increase of 7,000 acre-feet in 24 hours

The spillway was shut down Feb. 27, after the lake had been drawn down more than 50 feet from the lip of the emergency spillway following the erosion scare there Feb. 12.

Fear then that the emergency spillway weir might collapse prompted evacuation orders for more than 180,000 people in Oroville and downstream.

Since the main spillway was shut down, approximately 1,075,000 cubic-yards of debris has been removed from the pile that built up at the base of the main spillway after it broke up starting Feb. 7, according to DWR. The pile was initially estimated to contain 1.7 million cubic-yards.

That work will continue 24 hours a day while the spillway is shut down, according to DWR.

LIVE BREAKING 3-16-17 Oroville Dam spillway ABOUT TO BE OPENED! UPDATE Residents speak out:

New Drone Video | Spillway To Open Soon | Lake Oroville Dam Updates 3-16-17:



If you live on the flood plain below Oroville dam, I strongly suggest you not procrastinate and begin packing boxes now. Put all your most valuable stuff in boxes NOW. Make sure whatever you box up will fit in whatever you have to get out of there. The dam is not, at present, in imminent danger, however the water level keeps rising and has now gone up 20 feet since they shut the main spillway off. With less than 40 feet left to the top of the emergency spillway, they don't have anywhere near the capacity needed to hold spring runoff, even if the reservoirs upstream were not already full.

How much confidence do you have that the main spillway will survive extensive use? They are going to have to use it. I'd definitely pick through stuff and box the best right now. And don't wait for any evacuation orders, they proved beyond all doubt last time that they will wait way too long. If I lived below that dam, I'd watch the chart, and bug out at 997 feet. Actually, I would not live below the dam this long after the emergency spillway proved it's worth. I'd have already moved.


Jim Stone