OROVILLE, Calif. (KCRA) — A new report on the safety of more than 1,200 California dams reveals only one dam is listed as unsatisfactory — and that dam is Oroville.
In this Butte County town of some 19,000 people, some are getting wary.
“Businesses are concerned with getting on with business,” said Eric Smith, CEO of the Oroville Chamber of Commerce. “And folks are wanting to get on and feel they can live safely in their homes.”
The new report by the Division of Safety of Dams in the Department of Water Resources shows an old problem is still active at Oroville Dam, which has the “unsatisfactory” rating due to safety deficiencies.
On Tuesday, Oroville Dam was a beehive of activity, with more than 700 workers busy reconstructing the spillway that collapsed in February 2017, forcing an evacuation of some 180,000 people living downstream.
“We will have all structural concrete in place by November 1st on the main spillway,” said Erin Mellon, a spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources.
The new report shows Oroville Dam is still listed as unsatisfactory for the second year in a row.
Some people in Oroville said they are feeling a little nervous.
“Concerned,” said Jessica Campostrini, who said her family lives in Oroville. “We pay taxes in order to have things like this fixed and taken care of.”
Oroville may be small, but the city took a big hit when the spillway fell apart, causing plenty of pushback against the Department of Water Resources.
“A lot of businesses had to close when they evacuated the city,” said Art Hatley, an Oroville city councilman. “So there’s a lot of concern still that they want to make sure DWR is going to manage this properly.”
The Department of Water Resources said it is committed to restoring the spillway to protect residents downstream, which could be a critical step in rebuilding public confidence.
“Basically, one-third of that hillside is going to be covered in concrete,” Mellon said. “So if we ever get to that point again of having to use the emergency spillway, it’s going to be in much better shape.”
The report did generate some good reviews, including one from the Oroville Chamber of Commerce.
“I think transparency is always good,” Smith said.
He added that it’s important for residents to be in the know, “so folks have a sense of security knowing their needs and concerns are taken care of.”
California taxpayers have already spent an estimated $870 million to repair and rebuild the Oroville spillway. The DWR is expected to update that number Wednesday.
The Oroville Dam is inspected twice a year by state and federal engineers. Once construction is completed, the department anticipates the next report will show Oroville Dam back in the satisfactory category.
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