Reconstructed Oroville Dam Spillway Ready for Upcoming Storms

OROVILLE -- Lake Oroville was around 77 percent full Tuesday and it's expected to rise over the next several days with storms in the forecast.

It's near the point where water is typically released into the Feather River. The reconstructed spillway is about to face its first real test.

The feared failure of the Oroville Dam after the spillway started coming apart in the winter of 2017 is a topic that stirs up some dreadful memories in its shadow.

"When it broke, I will tell you I was pretty scared being on Highway 70 heading north and traffic was stopped," said a local resident.

Two years and $1 billion later, the main and emergency spillways have both been reconstructed and can handle flows as needed to manage lake levels and provide flood protection, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

In a Tuesday morning statement, DWR said experts were closely monitoring the reservoir levels and forecasts and taking steps to prepare for use of the main spillway as early as the first week of April.

Those steps include removing construction equipment from the spillway chute, removing a temporary construction road below the spillway, utilizing cameras and lights for observation of the spillway chute and monitoring of downstream water quality.

With safety measures put in place for construction crews, do the people of Oroville have confidence in the reconstructed spillways? The question is met with mixed reactions.

"I've never not had confidence in our system but you never know," the local resident said. "It's Mother Nature against man-made equipment. I'm not worried about it though."

DWR has not announced a specific date when the spillway may be used. The first week of April is the timeframe they're looking at.

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