OROVILLE, Calif. — The flood-control spillway at the nation's tallest dam will be deployed this week for the first time since it was rebuilt after it crumbled during heavy rains two years ago, forcing nearly 200,000 people to evacuate, California officials said Sunday.
Disaster was ultimately averted during the 2017 downpours, but Oroville Dam needed repairs that totaled $1.1 billion.
The Department of Water Resources has "restored full functionality to the Oroville main spillway and is operating the reservoir to ensure public safety of those downstream," the agency said in a statement.
Current estimates for the Oroville Reservoir have it at 853 feet, and main spillway releases are anticipated at 10,000 to 20,000 cubic-feet per second. Authorities also anticipate total releases to the Feather River to be up to 30,000 cfs from Oroville facilities and other natural flows.
The Feather River may also see releases increase again later in the week to between 40,000 and 60,000 cfs to prepare for forecasted inflows.
DWR and its contractor, Kiewit, spent the last two years making repairs. A panel of independent investigators blamed the crisis on "long-term systemic failure" dating back to the original design and construction of the two spillways.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said this month that it was refusing to reimburse California for $306 million of the $1.1 billion repair bill, citing the investigators' report and blaming the state for years of neglect. DWR officials said they plan to appeal the decision.
Oro Dam Blvd. East will be open to pedestrian and vehicle traffic unless flows from the main spillway exceed 30,000 cfs, however, should flows go over 30,000 cfs, the road will be closed to ensure public safety.
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