Sacramento, Calif., (February 16, 2017) – This winter’s record-breaking storms have tested our state and its infrastructure in ways no one could have predicted.
The past week has been particularly frightening for people in and around the City of Oroville. We’d first like to say how glad we are that hundreds of thousands of people were able to safely evacuate and that the emergency spillway helped provide the necessary time to do so.
There has been a lot of finger-pointing and talk about whether the structure should have been made even stronger.
Unfortunately, facts sometimes get lost in a crisis. As was pointed out by Jeffrey Mount of the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, the Oroville structures had successfully handled the big flood of 1997. The emergency spillway as well as the dam itself were re-checked and re-licensed a decade ago, and deemed safe and capable of handling what at the time, experts believed would be the worst-case scenario.
It’s also important to point out that the spillway in question was an extra precaution taken in addition to the regular overflow mechanisms. The licensing agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), even noted that in an extreme event, some erosion of the emergency spillway would be likely. In other words, it performed as expected.
California is facing an unprecedented amount of rain and snowfall this year, well above the wettest year in the state’s recorded history. Precipitation in the Northern Sierra this year is 221% above average.
We applaud the swift work of government officials, are delighted to hear the evacuees are now returning home and look forward to rolling up our sleeves and working with all involved toward an even more secure water future.