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Despite Problems With Oroville Dam Spillway, Officials Say Flood Risk In Sacramento Negligible

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - The instability of the emergency spillway at the Oroville Dam is now drawing concerns about our flood system as a whole: Is it operating as designed? And with all this water in the system making its way downstream, is Sacramento at risk?

Joseph Countryman - a member of the Central Valley Flood Protection Board - says with five years of drought and all the rain we've gotten, our flood system is actually behaving well.

"We have a problem with one of our reservoirs, but the system overall is operating properly," said Countryman.

He says people have a right to be concerned. This is the wettest year on record in about 100 years. And our reservoirs and lakes are quite high right now in the Sacramento Valley, but we have a very well-developed flood control system in place.

"Everything is moving well we haven't had any reports of levee problems or potential failures so the flood system is working as designed," Countryman said.

For the most part, the system is built to handle flows like the ones we've been seeing, but the threat of the Oroville Dam spillway collapsing has raised concerns.

And with more and more water releases from Shasta Lake to make room for the coming storms, all that water in the system must make its way downstream to Sacramento.

"If the Folsom reservoir was having the kind of problems that they're having in Oroville, it would be pretty scary for Sacramento because Sacramento is very reliant on a well functioning Folsom Dam," said Countryman.

Sacramento's level of flood protection is highly dependent on the Folsom reservoir, which according to Countryman is looking good right now.

Jay Lund, the Director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis, says Sacramento is not at risk and it's largely in part due to the Yolo Bypass.

"The bypass was built to accumulate all the big flood waters from the Feather River and Sacramento River and channel 80 percent of that water into the Yolo Bypass to keep Sacramento safe," said Lund.

To stay protected, levees have been rehabilitated. And within a few months, the spillway at Folsom will be available for use.

"We have improvements planned for the Yolo Bypass so it can handle all this additional water. There's also a plan to widen the Sacramento Weir to take more water from the American and Sacramento rivers and put it in the Yolo Bypass," said Countryman.

But no matter the protections, with mother nature there's always a chance of something going wrong

"There's always inherent flood risk when you have a lot of water," said Lund.

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