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Lawmakers, Community Groups, Residents Form Coalition; Hope to Stay in Loop on Issues Regarding Oroville Dam

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YUBA CITY -- Three months after the Oroville Dam spillway emergency, nearly 200,000 people are still counting their blessings.

"We were one of the unprepared families," said Dan Flores, a Sutter County supervisor.

Though they evacuated their towns in an eight-hour long line, they're alive and were eventually able to go back home.

"It became a mess, and there was absolutely no reason for it," Flores said.

Flores isn't complaining. The Sutter County supervisor just joined a newly formed coalition -- 42 people putting pressure on the state of California to prevent another emergency of this magnitude.

The Oroville Dam Coalition is comprised of local lawmakers, community groups and evacuees, who all have stakes in the neighborhoods impacted by the dam emergency. That's why they sent a demand letter to Gov. Jerry Brown organizing their frustrations into an effort they hope will keep them safer in the future.

"I guide on the Feather River, and so I am constantly using the data the DWR puts out," said James Stone with Norcal Guides and Sportmen's Association. "I knew that problems were going to occur."

Stone also joined the coalition. His expertise prompted him to evacuate his family days before evacuations were mandatory.

"One thing that I hope is we can all unite as one voice," Stone said.

He's hoping the letter will prompt the state to create a better evacuation plan, reinforce the spillway to ensure downstream communities' safety and keep the coalition in the loop.

"We want a seat at the table if something's going down or when there's a decision about how much water is being released out into the levee system," Flores said.

Others want a seat at the table too.

Hundreds came to the Yuba Sutter Fairgrounds on Tuesday night. This was the fifth in a series of Q&A meetings hosted by the Department of Water Resources meeting.

"We're really happy to hear from the community because their concerns and their questions are warranted, and they need answers," said Erin Mellon with the California Natural Resources Agency.

The California Natural Resources Agency encompasses the DWR.

Mellon says they will be releasing water from the main gates at the spillway once more this season -- Wednesday.

She says this release will be done much slower than usual because of response from these community meetings -- because these people told them they need more time just in case.