Crews have restarted one of six turbines in a power plant at the base of Oroville Dam, allowing them to release water from the Northern California lake without having to send it over a badly damaged spillway.

California Department of Water Resources Acting Director Bill Croyle said Friday that restarting the power plant is a major milestone in the race to protect Oroville and downstream communities from the threat of flooding.

Several days of dry weather have allowed construction crews to remove part of a massive debris pile that trapped water at the base of the dam and threatened the Hyatt Power Plant.

Nearly 200,000 people were ordered to evacuate from parts of three counties last month when Lake Oroville reached capacity and water cascaded onto a hillside.