Urgent for California: Oroville Dam in Danger

Just in is an urgent memo from my consigliere about the Oroville Dam situation in California:

“Oroville Dam, California

(highest dam in the United States holding back the 2nd largest lake in California)

Major damage to the Spillway problem

Spillway damage:

per news conference last night it is 180′ wide by 230′ long. other reports put the depth of the erosion in the spillway at 30′

Water flow in and out:

This is where the problem is: yesterday at the time of the Spillway disintegration 130,000 CFS (cubic feet per second) was flowing into Lake Oroville. They had upped the release through the Spillway to 60,000CFS and were in the process of taking it up further to 70,000 CFS when the problem appeared (to make room in the lake for water run off that will be coming in the next 3-4 days from the incoming BIG storms). They hydro plant was also spilling 5100 cfs via one penstock.

The lake was 851′ +- at the time of the event (2/7/17 at about 11 AM), full FLOOD CAPACITY for the lake is 900′. It is currently as of 8:00 AM PST at 865.88, or up about 15′ over the last 20 hours. (34′ to go until Lake is topped out at max!!)

With the Spillway closed the only way for water to exit the lake is via the Hydro Plant’s penstocks (5100 CFS going through yesterday and so far today). The second penstock was undergoing maintenance but they are hoping to get it operational later today and up the out flow through the Hydro Plant to 15,000 CFS.

Water flow into the lake has now declined to 75,000 CFS from yesterday morning’s 130,000, but with new big storms coming in that will be increasing dramatically.

The highest outflow via the Spillway was back in 1997 at 150,000 CFS during a similar rain event situation (wikipedia has max cap for Spillway at 225,000 CFS but 150,000 may be it’s real actual capacity since the 1997 event was huge and they were probably running at their real MAX spillage rate). The outflow via the Spillway was last at 60,000 CFS in 2006 and then during the drought there was NONE until 2015(?). Only much lower outflows, when there were any, since 2006.

At the current and projected “fill rate” the Lake only has about 3 to 4 days, depending upon the rain event, before it’s MAXIMUM FLOOD CAPACITY of 900′ is reached.

Daily water data:


Wikipedia data on the lake here:


We penciled out the amount of water that could be released with a dam failure: Lake Oroville holds about 1.126 trillion gallons of water.

WeatherUnderground.com reporting rain in the Oroville, CA area now, 1-additional inch today and 2 more inches tomorrow. Even more is expected in the mountains, so this is a touch ^ go situation that bears watching.

Hourly water data:


(Lake is climbing at half a foot per hour…)

(More as events warrant)

The MSM is still fixated on Trump-bashing but there IS REAL NEWS going on…

13 thoughts on “Urgent for California: Oroville Dam in Danger”

  1. The Dam at 770′ is 44 higher than the Hoover Dam. It is a rock filled dam vs a concrete dam and was built in the 1960’s.

    The water IN spillway itself drops about 550’+- with another 80′-90’+- drop at the end over bedrock before it hits the Feather River.

    When the problem occurred the dam was releasing about 2/3 of the water that is normally going over Niagara Falls on a typical afternoon, but it was also going down 3.5 times the vertical height of Niagara Fall. For those who have seen Niagara (Horseshoe) Falls that gives you some indication of the amount of EROSIVE WATER POWER that is being dealt with wrt this Spillway failure.

    With the amount of EROSIVE WATER POWER involved it is going to be very difficult to stabilize the Spillway in such a way in the short amount of time they have to work on it (2-3 days MAX) so as to limit the erosive effects that will occur when they are FORCED to reopen the gates at the top of the Spillway in order to protect the dam’s basic integrity. (imo of course). Hopefully those erosive effects wrt the Spillway do NOT spread laterally far enough to effect the Dam itself’s basic integrity

  2. Oh. S**t.

    If this were to break, would the fluid rushing through lubricate fault lines for more activity? Just a thought.

    • No. Water seeping into the ground from the lake is more likely to do that, and that isn’t likely either.

  3. Thank you for this, George. There was not one mention of this on the local radio station I listen to and I rarely venture into local television news anymore. Not sure it would have been covered locally anyway, absent a catastrophic failure at the source.

    “It’s not a public safety risk,” [Eric]See [the agency’s environmental program manager]
    said. “Dam failure is not in any way a potential threat.” (Sac Bee, Feb. 7th).

    Anyone else get suspicious when such a blanket statement is issued?

      • Finally made it down to SoCal sometime yesterday, after it was picked up by some of the larger media outlets. I still expect this is going to be used as an excuse to boost electricity rates come summer.

    • Silvermitt. If you took the time to actually **read** the article, you’d know that some “researchers” located a cave that they think **might** have contained some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but appears to have been looted quite some time ago. Big difference between “More dead sea scrolls found” and “Nothing to see here”.

      And all this just ONE DAY after Mr. Ure took the time to write a very fine piece on How To Read The News.

  4. George, full disclosure – I am NOT an engineer; I am the son of a PhD structural engineer and Army Corps of Engineers get, who is long gone. Would like to know if earthen dams are less likely to suffer sudden catastrophic failure than concrete and steel-built dams? Seems to me w/ earthen dams, seepage would be more likely than collapse/breech. Seepage would therefore mitigate damage otherwise found in the breech/collapse of concrete dams. Water loss from seepage is one of the ACE’ methods of measuring the health of such dams. Thoughts?

  5. They have opened up the gates and are releasing water down the “Spillway” again … but the Spillway itself has now totally separated and most of the water is going down outside the spillway channel.

    Video (link below) from 11 am PST (Sheriff’s Dept video) shows how bad the situation is.

    Water release rate in the video is 35,000 CFS and at the moment it does NOT look like they can release enough water fast enough with the current rains hitting the area to keep the lake from rising up to and overtopping the Emergency Spillway.

    Look for flooding downriver if the Emergency Spillway gets overtopped (prob sometime overnight Fri night).


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