Documents shed light on officials' actions during dam crisis

An aerial view shows water rushing out of the Oroville Dam's main spillway on Feb. 21 2017

The Department of Water Resources says its engineers estimate for the work was actually $231,715,373.

The rising water in early February eventually topped a never-before-used spillway, which started breaking apart. "There is no imminent threat to the public", they say.

Using the spillway was necessary because enough water can't be released through the powerhouse underneath the dam to keep up with the inflow. Work has already started on portions of the ‘no regrets work like road construction and slope stabilization in and around future work areas, which needs to be completed regardless of the spillway recovery design decisions. However, they later cut releases to prevent erosion near power-line towers.

Republican Sen. Jim Nielsen says communication from state managers during the February crisis at Oroville Dam was confusing to the public.

State water officials say the crisis was managed as effectively as possible.

Managers at the nation's tallest dam made a critical mistake by allowing the lake behind it reach its highest level ever.

The state said inflows to the lake are running at 28,224 cubic feet per second while outflows down the spillway are running at 35,000 cubic feet per second. In an email to the state that evening, the city administrator of Biggs, about 25 miles downstream from the dam, complains that he has received scant information about the dam.

An 8 a.m. update from the state gives no sign of trouble. Later that afternoon, Honea, the sheriff, learns the emergency spillway is breaking apart.

Conservation groups are urging extensive and swift repairs at the nation's tallest dam, where an eroding spillway triggered an evacuation order for almost 200,000 people in February.

Officials also opened the bids to complete the repairs for the spillway with cost estimates ranging from $275.4 million to $344.1 million.

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