OROVILLE (AP) — The Oroville Dam threatened by the possible failure of a damaged emergency spillway that forced the weekend evacuation of almost 200,000 residents has operated under temporary licenses for a decade, according to new reports.
A spokeswoman for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said a 50-year license for the Oroville Dam, the nation’s tallest, expired in January 2007. Mary O’Driscoll told The Associated Press that the facility has been operating under an existing license that’s renewed each year.
The California Department of Water Resources, which operates the dam, applied for a new 50-year license in 2005.
O’Driscoll said the federal agency finally received all the necessary permits and other documents needed to decide on the new license last December.
Earlier Monday, reports surfaced of documents showing environmentalists raised concerns years ago about the stability of the emergency spillway at the tallest U.S. dam but state officials dismissed them, insisting the structure was safe.
In a 2005 motion filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, three advocacy groups said using Lake Oroville’s earthen spillway would cause significant erosion because it wasn’t armored with concrete.
They said soil, rocks and debris could be swept into the Feather River, potentially damaging bridges and power plants. The groups warned of a failure of the dam itself, threatening lives and property.
Nearly three years later, state officials said no “significant concerns” about the spillway’s integrity had been raised in any government or independent review.
Bill Croyle, acting head of California’s Department of Water Resources, said Monday that he wasn’t familiar with the 2005 warnings.
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