OROVILLE (CBS SF) — Butte County officials attempted to quell fears Wednesday, triggered by social media rumors, that the newly rebuilt Oroville Dam was on the brink of a catastrophic collapse.
Sheriff Kory Honea posted an open letter to Oroville residents on Twitter that proclaimed there was no “current imminent threat” of a collapse.
“I spoke to engineers and hydrology experts, I questioned them about their ability to manage the inflow,” he posted. “Based upon all that, I don’t believe there is a current imminent threat. If I come to believe there is a problem that puts the safety of our community in imminent danger I will not hesitate to alert people.”
Two years ago, about 200,000 people had to evacuate amid fears the Oroville Dam could collapse after heavy rains and mountain runoff sent a torrent of water roaring down the Feather River.
The exodus was chaotic — streets were clogged and local agencies overwhelmed. A catastrophe was normally averted.
In April, water thundered down the dam’s rebuilt spillway for the first time since 2017. Officials released 10,000 to 20,000 cubic feet of water per second to relieve pressure from the snowmelt and a rainy week of spring weather.
“We certainly have looked at the independent forensic team’s report as well as many other studies as to what caused the failure of the main spillway in 2017,” said Erin Mellon of the California Dept. of Water Resources at the time of the release. “We’ve made those adjustments and improvements based on those reports. Much of that was addressed in using 21st century design.”
A series of winter storms this year have drenched California with rain and snow that has left many of its reservoirs almost full, including the Oroville Dam, which was at 95% capacity Tuesday.
California Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci said state officials have been monitoring reservoir levels and releasing waters throughout the season because of this year’s high rain and snowfall totals.
The current storm “will dump some new snow in the mountains,” but is not expected to create widespread flooding because some of the snow has already melted, he said.