Tuesday 23 May 2017

Crews work around clock to fix California dam

The Oroville Dam spillway releases 2,800 cubic metres of water per second from the reservoir in Oroville, California. Photo: Getty Images
The Oroville Dam spillway releases 2,800 cubic metres of water per second from the reservoir in Oroville, California. Photo: Getty Images

Kim Ripoll in San Francisco

Crews working around the clock atop the crippled Oroville Dam have made progress in repairing the damaged spillway, reducing the lake level by at least 2.4m overnight at a Northern California reservoir that has been central to the life of the towns around it for half a century.

Workers hoisted giant white bags filled with rocks, and at least two helicopters planned to fly in rocks yesterday and then release them into the eroded area of the spillway. Dump trucks full of boulders were also dumping cargo on the damaged spillway.

Workers are rushing to repair the barrier at the nation's tallest dam after authorities ordered the evacuation of nearly 200,000 people living below the lake amid concerns the spillway could fail and send water roaring downstream. Evacuations remained in place last night.

State Department of Water Resources officials hope to reduce the lake level to 259m by tomorrow, when storms will bring more rain, spokesman Chris Orrock said. The level was 269m yesterday morning.

The lake that for five decades has hosted holiday fireworks celebrations and salmon festivals now could bring disaster.

"Never in our lives did we think anything like this would have happened," Brannan Ramirez, who has lived in Oroville, a town of about 16,000 people, for about five years, said.

The Gold Rush town in the Sierra Nevada foothills, some 100km north-east of Sacramento, is nestled near the foot of the dam.

Irish Independent

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