Crews Work 24/7 to Patch Up Eroded Oroville Dam Emergency Spillway

OROVILLE -- Ninety-six crews, trucks, helicopters and tons and tons of material.

"It's kind of like a war zone for all the right reasons out there," said Bill Croyle, acting director for the Department of Water Resources.

The eroded Oroville emergency spillway is being filled with a mixture of rock and grout.

"Proactive contingency plan we're putting in place to protect the emergency spillway should we need to use it again," Croyle said.

But the DWR doesn't expect that to happen with the next round of rain.

With 100,000 cubic feet of water per second gushing down the main spillway at the Oroville Dam, the reservoir is dropping 8 feet each day.

As storms head this way, that comes as a big relief.

"We've taken almost 20 feet of the reservoir water surfaces out of the reservoir, which poses far less risk to all of the infrastructure we have here," Croyle said.

As of 8 p.m. Wednesday, the DWR reported that the lake levels are at 26 feet below the emergency spillway. The storms could push waters through the main spillway at an additional 45,000 cubic feet per second. This should not impact lake levels, which will continue to lower through the storms.

As the DWR orders repairs on the emergency spillway and monitors the main spillway, some question if the agency is to blame for not preventing this situation. DWR spokesperson Chris Orrock said right now they're focusing on the current incident.

"There are people that are reviewing everything that's being done out here and I'm sure, for months and years to come, will be talking about this," Orrock said.

The focus now is not only on the safety of residents but also crews. That's why with the rain coming in, work on the ground and from the air might stop.

"If the land gets too wet we can't operate heavy machinery out there, and it could become a safety issue with our personnel out there," Orrock said.

Officials said they're taking this situation one step at a time but will continue the 24/7 operation as long as it's necessary.

The Department of Water Resources is considering decreasing the outflow of water onto the main spillway. Right now the outflow is at 100,000 cubic feet per second. Officials couldn't give FOX40 a timeline of when that could happen, but they said once the reservoir drops there's no reason to continue forcing that much water out and causing more damage to the main spillway.