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Water Begins to Flow over Lake Oroville Dam’s Emergency Spillway for First Time in History

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OROVILLE -- Water is now flowing over the Lake Oroville Dam's emergency auxiliary spillway for the first time in history.

This happened as the main spillway continues to have erosion problems after a sinkhole was discovered in the middle of it earlier this week. Water is also continuing to flow through that damaged spillway.

As of Sunday the damage to the gated spillway was stabilized and the auxiliary spillway water flow was down to 8,000 cubic feet per second, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

Like so many others, William Bock hikes more than a mile to take a look at the spillway, which, with 55,000 cubic feet per second of water running through it, looks more like a water fall.

"There's beauty to it, but then there's all the destruction," Bock told FOX40.

The auxiliary spillway has no cement lining. Bock knows all the erosion, made worse by its use, will ruin fishing and kayaking for him on the Feather River.

"It's sad but it will recover this summer," Bock said.

For now the Department of Water Resources said people should not be alarmed about their homes or safety down river because the spillway is being watched 24/7 with surveillance cameras, drones and helicopters.

"It's lit up at night, so it's constantly being monitored," said Eric See of the Department of Water Resources. "If they do see a problem that they are uncomfortable with then we have those gates, we can shut the flow off."

June is likely when the sink hole could be fixed, but engineers are preparing now in case they get a dry spell.

"It's possible, if we had a window of opportunity they could close it off, get in there, do some type of repair, or partial repair, and get out before they would have to open up the gates again," See explained.

If it can't be fixed, See said a new spillway may be built before next October.

But for now, they must continue to use the main and emergency spillway in order to solve a short term problem.

"We'd like to start lowering the elevation of Lake Oroville to bring that down to be able to be prepared for the next rain event, which is looking like maybe next Thursday," See said.

As for the extra debris, See said they "have some boom lines that are in the water. So, if we have floating debris it should collect on the boom lines, we could remove them."

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