California may face ‘significant risk’ from dam

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California is courting a “very significant risk” if a damaged spillway on the nation’s tallest dam is not operational by the next rainy season, and the state’s plan for the work leaves no time for any delays, a team of safety experts has warned in a report obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

Crews working to repair a crippled spillway on the Lake Oroville dam will be racing the clock to have the spillway in good enough shape by next fall, according to the report prepared by an independent team of consultants and submitted to federal officials last week.

The crews hope to prevent a repeat, or worse, of dramatic events that led to nearly 200,000 people being evacuated last month.

Repair contracts will have to be awarded by June and workers will have to have the spillway in solid enough shape by Nov. 1, the experts warned.

“This is a very demanding schedule, as everyone recognizes. There seems to be no room anywhere to expand any part of the schedule,” the five-member expert team said in the report for state and federal water and dam-safety officials. “A very significant risk would be incurred if the Gated Spillway is not operational by November 1.”

The report does not specify what that means. However, officials with the state Department of Water Resources, which operates Lake Oroville — the site of the nation’s tallest dam and California’s second-largest lake — fear a huge rupture that opened in the main spillway could expand to cripple the flood gates that send out controlled releases of water and keep water from spilling over uncontrollably.

In a statement, spokeswoman Maggie Macias said the agency’s objective was to have a fully functional spillway before the start of the next storm season.

“We’ll be working round-the-clock through spring, summer and fall to make that happen,” she said.

The independent consultants were selected by the state at the request of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Department of Water Resources…

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