OROVILLE (CBS13) — State officials may have been aware of the dangers with the emergency spillway more than a decade ago. The 2005 report filed by three environmental groups describes the potential dangers with the spillway that unfolded over the weekend.
As the main spillway pours into the Feather River, the emergency spillway is dry and being reinforced with large rocks.
“This is a new, never-happened-before event,” said Bill Croyle the acting director with the Department of Water Resources.
Officials with the DWR may have never thought they’d be in this predicament, according to Ron Stork with the environmental group Friends of the River.
“They didn’t think the emergency spillway would ever be required,” said Stork.
He authored a complaint filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission while DWR was trying to renew their dam operating license 12 years ago.
In the brief, Stork expressed concern about the use of the emergency spillway without a concrete chute. Saying water over the top would result in severe damage of the hillside and facilities downstream.
He went on to write that “use of the emergency spillway could cause a loss of crest control at the dam.” Meaning, like we heard on Sunday, a wall of water could flow uncontrollably.
“I’m not aware of the findings or what that was based on so I can’t respond to that at this time,” said Croyle.
While DWR officials denied knowing about the report during a news conference on Monday;
Stork’s brief notes, “An unarmored spillway is not in conformance with current FERC engineering regulations.”
Despite the warning from the past, Stork says the most important issue is rectifying the current crisis.
“The job is to reconstruct and construct an Oroville Dam that can be operated safely,” said Stork.