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Maintenance Records Show Oroville Dam Spillway Previously Patched

OROVILLE (CBS13) — Water continues to pour over the heavily damaged spillway at the Oroville Dam, as the lake level continues to rise towards the crest of the emergency spillway.

As of 5 p.m. on Friday, the dam was at 897.59 feet of its 900-foot capacity. The emergency spillway would kick if it reaches 901 feet. Inflows to the lake have dropped significantly, from nearly 180,000 cubic feet per second on Thursday night to just less than 116,000 on Friday.

The Department of Water Resources says it's pushing 65,000 cubic feet of water per second through the damaged spillway. The erosion has tripled since Tuesday.

There may have been some warning signs from the past.

Problems at the Oroville spillway were known.

A picture shot by Lois Cameron from 2013 shows crews examining an issue around the area of the current hole.

Credit: Lois Cameron

"There were some patches needed and so we made repairs and everything checked out," said Kevin Dossey, a Senior Civil Engineer with the Department of Water Resources. "It looked like it would be able to hold, be able to pass water."

Dossey says this sort of thing is routine.

"It's common for spillways to develop a void because of the drainage systems under them," said Dossey.

While everything may have appeared normal back in 2013, 2014, and 2015; what happened Tuesday when the earth gave way, is anything but.

"There wasn't any evidence that anything more needed to be done," said Dossey, "repairs were smooth and looked like they were good and secure."

Engineers are forced to release water over the damaged spillway as it continues to eat away earth.

"At this flow right now we do not anticipate any water going over the emergency spillway," said Eric See, a spokesperson with DWR.

With water inching towards the brim of the emergency spillway, crews are clearing the emergency spillway path just in case. They're removing trees and debris.

Two high voltage power lines are also being removed by PG&E crews.

"We are taking the powerlines off the lines, they've already been deenergized and we'll be disassembling the towers piece by piece," said Paul Moreno, a PG&E spokesperson.

It would be the first time ever that water has gone over the emergency spillway, if the levels reach 900 feet.

Officials stressed that the dam is secure and unharmed.

"It's not a flood event," said See. "It's not the kind of event that's going to create flooding."

The inspection reports in the last 3 years check out. Only referencing previous patchwork. By all indications the spillway was solid.

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