Report Cuts Possibilities For Oroville Dam Spillway Failure To 24 Reasons

MARYSVILLE (CBS13) — “It was chaos,” said Rikki Shaffer, the head of the Yuba-Sutter Chamber of Commerce.

She was recalling the night of Feb. 12 when the Oroville Dam emergency spillway crumbled and more than 160,000 people south of the dam were evacuated.

“We had a significant number of businesses with product loss, lost wages,” explained Shaffer.

The Chamber of Commerce has more than 600 businesses that were affected when the spillway failed.

“That water will get here very quickly so we have a vested interest in that aspect,”‘ said Jason Banks, the Mayor of Live Oak.

Live Oak is about 20 miles south of the dam. Banks recalls a hectic 48 hours.

“It was crippling,” said Banks talking about the evacuation, “We were forced to do the best we could with the information we had at the time.”

He and Shaffer are a part of a coalition with more than 20 other local governments and organizations that are pushing for transparency and a permanent spillway fix from the Department of Water Resources.

“Not satisfied with their information and not satisfied with their body of work,” said Shaffer.

On Wednesday, the DWR published a two page memo was compiled by a team of forensic investigators tasked with looking into the cause of the Oroville Dam spillway failure.

The report cited 24 potential causes that may have contributed to the spillway’s demise.

The findings include:

  • Erosion beneath the spillway
  • A water increase down the spillway chute before the failure happened.
  • And a lack of effective repairs over time.

Banks says the report only confirms what he already knew, that there had been years of missteps.

“There was a lack of inspection,” said Banks, “There was a lack of repair.”

Banks says the coalition would like to see better care and attention to detail at the state’s tallest dam.

“What I expect them to do is repair it and maintain it in a way that they would maintain it if they lived south of it,” said Banks.

The memo made public on Wednesday is a preliminary list. The final report is due out in the fall and will have an outline of what caused the failure.

The Department of Water Resources has held five of seven public forums to provide information about the spillway and take questions. The next meeting will be on Thursday in Chico.

More from Drew Bollea
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