DWR Says There’s a Slim Chance Oroville Dam Spillway Will Need to Be Used Again Soon

OROVILLE -- For the first time since it's been rebuilt, the Department of Water Resources says there is an off chance the spillway at the Oroville Dam may need to be used again.

Currently, the water level at Lake Oroville is far below where it was two years ago.

"Right now we’re at an elevation of about 772 feet. The spillway gates are at elevation 813," DWR spokeswoman Erin Mellon said. "So even if you open the gates you wouldn’t have water flowing down the spillway."

However, with plenty of rain in the forecast over the next 10 days, the DWR says there’s a chance the lake's water levels could reach the flood gates, giving the newly reconstructed spillway its first real test since the old one crumbled in February of 2017.

Water officials say it's unlikely the spillway will have to be used -- but if it’s needed, it’ll work.

"The spillway is fully reconstructed at 21st-century engineering standards and we are very confident in its ability to handle releases," Mellon said.

But the people of Oroville are skeptical.

"It looks good but hasn’t been tested," Oroville resident Trisha Barker said.

Barker's father helped build the dam during the 1960s, and she says she's been very disappointed with how DWR has maintained it since.

"These things should have been taken care of," Barker told FOX40. "It should have been maintained."

Others echo Barker's feelings, distrustful of anything DWR has said over the past two years.

"Just like they went with the same thing they did in the very beginning. I think they tried to cut corners," neighbor Martin Down said.

However, some who live in the area are confident on the progress crews have made with the spillway.

"They’ve had a good company that’s working on it. They seem like they’re really busy all the time," Loma Rica resident Rocky Richardson said.

The DWR says it's working with the contractor to remove equipment during the rain storms, just in case the spillway is needed.

But the state agency also says that’s not its only option.

"We have the Hyatt Power Plant and the river valve outlet system which are two other ways that we can manage inflow and outflow," Mellon said.

For now, the road to the top of the dam remains closed. The DWR says it may be back open in the summer.

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