What Would Happen If The Oroville Emergency Spillway Fails?

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OROVILLE (KCBS) – If the emergency spillway at the Oroville Dam gave way, it would send a pressure wave down the system which could cause levees to fail down the Feather River from Oroville to Marysville, Yuba City to the Sacramento River.

“It’s a very thin line,” said Joe Countryman is former head of reservoir regulation for the Army Corps of Engineers and a member of the Central Valley Flood Protection Board.

“These levees have a top width of about 20 feet. And there maybe, on the Feather River, somewhere between 20 to 25 feet high. So it’s a thin line holding that water in, they’re not designed to take in a surge like a failure,” Countryman told KCBS.

As of Monday morning, the spillway is holding. But the levees, which have had it easy during the drought years, now have to hold back an increased amount of water for an extended period of time.

Levees are also being undermined by beavers and critters so they’re always needing inspection and repair.

So far, Sacramento’s mayor is not expecting any impact there. He said any water released would take 12 hours to hit and it can be diverted away via the Yolo Causeway.

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