Monday, February 13, 2017

Things are happening!

I think most people in the US of A now know where Oroville CA is. It's the town with the broken down dam and a lot of people evacuated. We are located about 20 miles north of Oroville and are not in the flood zone so we weren't impacted in any way, or so we thought. Then we found out that our Church, Bidwell Presbyterian, was one of the evacuation centers. Church members have are soliciting supplies for the families that will be, or are, sleeping in our Fellowship hall. I'm really pleased with this reaction on the part of the church. They have been practicing; The end of January ended our participation in providing overnight shelter for homeless and their pets.

I've read that the water is no longer going over the emergency spill. And I've seen the size and location of the hole that is so dangerously close to the emergency spillway. The plan, as I understand it, is to drop rocks into this hole via helicopters. They already have the rocks ready and bagged up for transit.and the engineers are on site, able to see all of the way down into the pit.

I just finished reading the second book I've read about the San Francisquito Canyon Dam that William Mulholland built. Floodpath by Jon Wilkman.  This author carefully details the anatomy of the collapse of that dam (1928) and the subsequent loss of lives. As I looked at the pictures of Oroville Dam, I couldn't help but remember the arrogant attitude of the engineers of that time and then after the collapse, the behavior of the Metropolitan Water District when it came time to pay damages. Now it looks like the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) figures in the damage of this dam. The state of California owns this dam and the water. MWD is one of the biggest customers, or "shareholders" of this dam and it's water. It's already come up that when it was suggested to armor the spillway and use concrete to channel the water safely away from it's base. MWD and the San Diego authorities convinced the FERC (Federal Energy Resources Commision) that the spillway met all of the prevailing standards (when it was built) and the expense was not warranted. This was the 2nd time that MWD has used its financial muscle to block this safety project.

There is more rain coming, starting late Wednesday night and continuing for 4 or more days and that means heavy stream flow into the lake. There are just two short days left to fix that hole.They are releasing as much water as they can out of the lake via the main spillway and it has its own problem; a large hole in the concrete channel, about a third of the way down the slope.

This drama is just in it's infancy and it will end in a courtroom or many courtrooms. Just as the story of the San Francisquito ended, years after the event.


  1. We have been following it too. Whether we live near such a potential disaster, I think we all can empathize, especially in a country where dams are such a big part of our lives. I just hope they get the fix in. I read that the warning was like 12 years or so ago and it was ignored. Sounds like New Orleans.

  2. There has been no comment from the major owners, such as the MWD. When they do talk, the finger will be pointed in some other direction, not at them. As of this morning I can't find any progress stories except that they are continuing to draw down the lake using the main spillway...cautiously.