DAILY DIGEST: Workers race to shore up eroded Oroville spillway while crisis puts focus on dam spillways – aging and some never tested; Questions swirl around scope of federal probe into California water districts; and more …

In California water news today, Workers race to shore up eroded spillway; Oroville Dam’s flood control manual hasn’t been updated in a half a century; Q&A with Stanford experts puts Oroville breach in context; Oroville Dam puts focus on dam spillways – aging and some never tested; Reclamation districts try to stay ahead of rain and seepage; Keeping California wet (not flooded) is expensive; New aquatic DNA database could transform water, wildlife management; El Nino triggered massive erosion along California’s coast; and more …

In dam news today …

Workers race to shore up eroded spillway:  “As rainy weather arrived Wednesday, trucks and helicopters continued to dump and drop thousands of tons of material to shore up the eroded hillside beneath the emergency spillway at Oroville Dam.  At the same time, releases down the main, damaged spillway continued at 100,000 cubic-feet per second in an effort to lower the lake level to 850 feet of elevation, 50 feet below the level considered full. The lake was being drawn down because of coming storms and future runoff, said Bill Croyle, acting director of the California Department of Water Resources. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  Workers race to shore up eroded spillway

Oroville Dam’s flood control manual hasn’t been updated in a half a century:  “The critical document that determines how much space should be left in Lake Oroville for flood control during the rainy season hasn’t been updated since 1970, and it uses climatological data and runoff projections so old they don’t account for two of the biggest floods ever to strike the region.  Independent experts familiar with the flood-control manual at Oroville Dam said Wednesday there’s no indication the 47-year-old document contributed to the ongoing crisis involving the dam’s ailing spillways. The current troubles stem from structural failures, not how the lake’s flood-storage space was being managed. ... ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Oroville Dam’s flood control manual hasn’t been updated in a half a century

Q&A with Stanford experts puts Oroville breach in context:  “After heavy rainfall in recent weeks in drought-stricken California, over 180,000 people were told to evacuate areas near the Oroville Dam, northeast of Sacramento. Officials feared the dam’s spillway may fail, triggering a 30-foot wall of water hurtling into the Feather River, which runs through downtown Oroville. Workers with the California Department of Water Resources are frantically trying to repair the damaged spillway in order to prevent disaster and the evacuation orders were lifted as of Tuesday afternoon due to the progress made so far in reducing the risk of flooding. Yet with storms expected to continue later this week, it is a race against time to fortify the dam’s aging infrastructure. Stanford experts Noah Diffenbaugh and Newsha Ajami spoke about what happened at Oroville Dam and what Californians should expect going forward. ... ”  Read more from Stanford News here:  Q&A with Stanford experts puts Oroville breach in context

Endangered fish among the evacuees of Oroville Dam crisis:  “Days before nearly 200,000 people downstream of Lake Oroville were ordered to evacuate because of problems with two spillways at the dam, there were millions of other evacuees – residents of the Feather River Fish Hatchery.  Last week, rising water levels at Lake Oroville caused dam operators to divert water to its spillway, which runs to the Feather River. High water flows and the spillway diversions increased the turbidity in the river, which threatened the health of juvenile Chinook salmon and steelhead eggs being raised at the hatchery, said Howard Brown, Sacramento River Basin Chief of NOAA Fisheries. ... ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  Endangered fish among the evacuees of Oroville Dam crisis

Oroville spillway: Butte County Sheriffs responding to drones and social media concerns:  “As work continues on the Oroville Dam emergency spillway site, the Butte County Sheriff’s Department has had some of its attention diverted by unusual distractions — drones and hysteria caused by social media posts.  Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea says he has fielded several calls from residents who have read alarmist social media posts. … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  Oroville spillway: Butte County Sheriffs responding to drones and social media concerns

Map: See how Oroville dam crisis unfolded:  “Water officials say the storms arriving in Oroville Thursday and over the weekend are expected to be relatively small and unlikely to pose a threat to repairs at the spillway.  “With the high rate of release we have now, we shouldn’t see the lake level rise,” said Bill Croyle, acting director of the state department of water resources. “We’ll be moving more water out than we’re seeing coming in in the next day or so.”  Nonetheless, said Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea, people should be ready to evacuate again, by having things they need at hand and making a plan for where they can go. … ” Read more from KQED here:  Map: See how Oroville dam crisis unfolded

How the Oroville dam is just the beginning of California’s flood fears:  “This week, 188,000 Californians were evacuated because an emergency spillway was damaged at Lake Oroville.  With more rain coming and a massive snow pack piling up, the state’s reservoirs and dams are being pushed to their limits.  According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s National Inventory of Dams, there are 1,585 dams in California. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  How the Oroville dam is just the beginning of California’s flood fears

Oroville emergency a warning for U.S. dam safety:  “The near-failure on Sunday evening of the auxiliary spillway at Oroville Dam and the ongoing emergency operations to contain flood waters in California’s second-largest reservoir and shore up its eroding outlet are a tale of caution for the nation’s aging dam fleet.  “I think it should give many people reason to step back and take a hard look at things, including California,” wrote Martin McCann, director of the National Performance of Dams Program at Stanford University, in an email to Circle of Blue.  The Oroville emergency is unfolding in a state with a dam safety program widely regarded as the nation’s strongest. McCann agreed that California’s efforts to prevent a partial collapse of Oroville’s auxiliary spillway should be a wakeup call for other states with less vigilant dam regulation. Alabama, for instance, has no state dam oversight at all. ... ”  Read more from Circle of Blue here:  Oroville emergency a warning for U.S. dam safety

In other water news today …

Oroville Dam puts focus on dam spillways – aging and some never tested:  “When operators of Oroville Dam suddenly ordered evacuations on Sunday, it focused a big spotlight on a crucial piece of California’s flood-control infrastructure – spillways.  California is home to more than 1,500 dams, and all of the major ones have spillways to release water in big floods and relieve pressure on the dam itself. Some of these spillways are old; some have never been used before. Some are lined with concrete. Some aren’t. Many are too small to handle the sorts of floods California faces now and in the future.  All of them have been overlooked – until now. … ”  Read more from the Merced Sun-Star here:  Oroville Dam puts focus on dam spillways – aging and some never tested

Reclamation districts try to stay ahead of rain and seepage:  “Work continues on a boil on a Sacramento River levee near the Natomas Cross Canal.  Joe Henderson is the General Manager of Reclamation District 1001. He says crews are installing a seepage wall on an 870-foot section of levee along the Garden Highway north of Elverta Road. … ” Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  Reclamation districts try to stay ahead of rain and seepage

Keeping California wet (not flooded) is expensive:  “Just before Christmas in 1955, the northern two-thirds of California were drenched by what meteorologists nowadays call an atmospheric river — a gusher of warmish precipitation from the Pacific Ocean tropics. Storms earlier that month had piled up snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains, but the atmospheric river delivered rain up to an elevation of about 10,000 feet. The rain, and the melting snow, sent rivers over their banks in much of the state — as well as in parts of Oregon, Nevada, and even Washington and Idaho.  The worst flooding was along the Feather River, which pours out of the mountains northwest of Lake Tahoe into the Sacramento Valley. On Dec. 23, the flow at the foothill town of Oroville peaked at 203,000 cubic feet per second — more than twice the average discharge of the Missouri River when it hits the Mississippi at St. Louis. This flooded a few houses in Oroville, but the real damage came down on the valley floor. ... ”  Read more from Bloomberg View here:  Keeping California wet (not flooded) is expensive

New aquatic DNA database could transform water, wildlife management:  “Water projects necessarily have impacts on fish and other aquatic species. Water, after all, is habitat. So when a new dam or diversion is proposed, we need to find out what fish, frogs and other species will be affected, how many and how significantly.  Trouble is, those questions have always been answered based on limited data. It’s virtually impossible to survey a stream and know every creature that lives there. The stream is too big and the survey tools too crude.  Until now. The U.S. Forest Service is on the verge of unveiling a comprehensive genetic database of every stream and lake in the western United States. … ” Read more from Water Deeply here:  New aquatic DNA database could transform water, wildlife management

El Nino triggered massive erosion along California’s coast:  “El Niño may not have brought much rain to Southern California, but it did take its toll on the Golden State’s beaches.  A new study of the waves, water levels and coastal changes at 29 beaches across California, Oregon and Washington has found that the 2015-16 El Niño triggered unprecedented erosion across much of the West Coast.  The results, published this week in the journal Nature Communications, document a level of degradation from which these natural systems may not be able to recover. That could have far-reaching environmental and economic impacts, experts said. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  El Nino triggered massive erosion along California’s coast

Gray proposes to overhaul state water control:  “Describing California’s water management structure as “broken,” Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) introduced new legislation Feb. 6 to overhaul and restructure the current administration and enforcement of water rights and the State Water Project.  “Anyone who has tried to work with the state on water knows that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, conflicts of interest are the norm, and state agencies act as their own prosecution, judge and jury,” said Gray. “The net effect is an ineffective bureaucratic maze which leaves us unable to capitalize on vital opportunities and prioritizes special interest working behind the scenes over good public policy.” ... ”  Read more from the Ceres Courier here:  Gray proposes to overhaul state water control

Questions swirl around scope of federal probe into California water districts:  “A reported federal investigation that’s stalled part of a California irrigation-drainage deal does not extend to the small San Luis Water District in western Fresno and Merced counties, a top district official said Wednesday.  Shedding some light on a case that’s been marked by private speculation and public ambiguity, San Luis Water District Board President Bill Diedrich said in an interview that the 60,000-acre district was not part of any probe.  “We have not been contacted,” Diedrich said. “None of our members or staff have been questioned.” … ”  Read more from McClatchy DC here:  Questions swirl around scope of federal probe into California water districts

‘Biggest storm of the year’ to unleash flooding rain in California at week’s end:  “A new train of storms has arrived along the Pacific coast, and a potent one is set to hit California hard with heavy rain, mountain snow and strong winds during the latter part of this week.  The first storm will focus on areas from Northern California to Washington into Thursday. The second storm in the series will focus most of its moisture on Southern California from Thursday night to Saturday.  “The late-week storm has the potential to be the biggest of the winter in terms of rainfall and impact to much of Southern California,” according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Jim Andrews. … ”  Read more from Accu-Weather here:  ‘Biggest storm of the year’ to unleash flooding rain in California at week’s end

In commentary today …

Big picture questions raised by the Oroville dam emergencyLaura Feinstein and Peter Gleick write,Heavy winter rains and erosion of the Oroville Dam’s two spillways sparked an evacuation of at least 188,000 people living in the communities of Oroville, Marysville, and surrounding downstream areas.  The events that unfolded over the past eight days can inform a more educated conversation about water management going forward. We address six questions worth thinking about as we move forward. … ” Read more from Water Deeply here:  Big picture questions raised by the Oroville dam emergency

George Skelton: Dam officials should have listened to those warnings about Oroville.  Now we’re stuck paying the price:  “Climate change did not produce California’s winter flooding that abruptly ended a devastating drought. That weather swing is just how California works.  California has endured rotating cycles of wet and dry periods throughout its history. If there are weeks of deluge, a severe drought is on the way. It happens every decade or so.  But climate change will bring more frequent and robust cycles of extreme weather. Bet on it.  “All of our climate change calculations suggest wetter wets and drier dries,” says Jeffrey Mount, a water expert at the Public Policy Institute of California. He’s also founding director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Dam officials should have listened to those warnings about Oroville.  Now we’re stuck paying the price

Lessons California should learn from Oroville dam debacle: Kathryn Phillips and Ron Stork write,The Oroville Dam debacle is a wake-up call to California.  If we heed the call, we may be able to avoid what could certainly be other disasters and wrong turns in the state water system as we head into an age typified by extreme weather events associated with climate change.  In 2005, our organizations, the Sierra Club and Friends of the River, warned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the agency responsible for relicensing hydroelectricity dams, that the earthen emergency spillway on the dam was too dangerous. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Lessons California should learn from Oroville dam debacle

To avoid catastrophe, don’t build more dams, says Eric Wesselman and Ron Stork:  They write, “In the wake of the Oroville Dam near-catastrophe, many are asking our organization what the state needs to do to ensure there aren’t problems with other dams and what they can do to make sure any problems are addressed.  To ensure a safe and reliable water system that protects communities and the rivers that flow through them, Californians must invest in innovative, 21st century water solutions that diversify our water system and work with nature instead of against it.  Twelve years ago, Friends of the River and other environmental groups warned state and federal agencies that the unarmored spillway at Oroville, our nation’s tallest dam, was dangerous. We were ignored. This time, we trust our words will not fall on deaf ears. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  To avoid catastrophe, don’t build more dams

In regional news and commentary today …

Red Bluff: Rivers, sloughs remain high due to releases, runoff:  “The upcoming winter storm is forecast to bring more rain to the North State, with flooding and high water levels at the Sacramento River continuing throughout the week as more water is being released from Shasta and Keswick dams.  A wind advisory, with south winds at 20-30 mph with gusts up to 45 mph, was put into effect from 10 p.m. Wednesday evening to 10 a.m. Thursday. … ”  Read more from the Red Bluff Daily News here:  Red Bluff: Rivers, sloughs remain high due to releases, runoff

Livermore: Oroville break puts more focus on water storage:  “The break in the non-paved emergency spillway at Lake Oroville is expected to have an impact on Zone 7 Water Agency and other water wholesalers in the state. The Valley receives 80 percent of water from Lake Oroville.  Zone 7 General Manager Jill Duerig said that while numbers are not known, the agency as one of 29 State Water Contractors would be paying its share of repairs and improvements, which would be 2 percent. …  The problem argues for creating more storage closer to Zone 7, said Duerig. Traditionally, the State Water Project has relied on snow in the Sierra to store water. With climate change, the snow line is rising, reducing the amount that would be stored, Duerig has said at Zone 7 meetings. … ”  Read more from the Livermore Independent here:  Livermore: Oroville break puts more focus on water storage

San Joaquin River hits flood stage, expected to rise to danger stage:  “The San Joaquin River reached flood stage on Tuesday and may reach the danger level by this weekend. The coming rain and strong winds will put the levees to the test.  Flood stage is still three feet below the top of the levees, and the danger stage is two feet from the top.  But in some parts of San Joaquin County, trailer parks inside the levees have had to evacuate due to rising water levels. … ” Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  San Joaquin River hits flood stage, expected to rise to danger stage

Endangered rabbits rescued as San Joaquin River floods:  “The flood on the San Joaquin River isn’t a catastrophe for humans — at least, not yet — but one of the region’s most charismatic endangered species is having a tough go of it.  Biologists have rescued about 80 riparian brush rabbits in recent days as the rising river gobbles up the bunnies’ low-lying habitat at the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge, just south of San Joaquin County.  Riparian brush rabbits are found nowhere else in the world but at the river refuge and a couple of other nearby sites, including Caswell Memorial State Park in San Joaquin County. ... ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  Endangered rabbits rescued as San Joaquin River floods

Rising waters in Stanislaus County and Don Pedro Reservoir cause concern for dairy farmers:  “Flood concerns are increasing in Stanislaus County and the Don Pedro Reservoir is nearly its capacity of 830 cubic feet. However, it’s expected to drop another foot. Water has been cautiously released into the Tuolumne and San Joaquin Rivers. The San Joaquin near Crows Landing looks like a lake.  As ABC10 reported Tuesday, at least one RV park flooded out there. Now, concerns are extending to agriculture and cows.  At Carvalho Farms near Patterson, Michael Carvalho is in charge of 600 cows. … ”  Read more from ABC 10 here:  Rising waters in Stanislaus County and Don Pedro Reservoir cause concern for dairy farmers

Modesto: Area mounts massive protest against state water proposal:  “Worth Your Fight, a campaign of the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts to rally opposition to a state water proposal, is an effort rich in numbers: 5,700 people so far have signed online petitions protesting the state proposal, which would benefit fish with more river flows at the expense of farms and cities; 16,500 people have viewed the Worth Your Fight website, which is stacked with information on the state proposal, released in September and known as the Substitute Environmental Document.  The State Water Resources Control Board is considering roughly doubling local river volumes from February through June each year to help salmon and other fish and reduce salinity in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Area mounts massive protest against state water proposal

Will the water come to Okieville, California? The small hamlet of Okieville got its name from those who headed to California to escape the 1930s Dust Bowl. Today, Okieville is one of the areas hardest hit by California’s current drought.  Marvin May remembers the trip in the back seat of his uncle’s Model A Ford in the mid-1930s. “For a seven-year-old kid, I thought it was OK!” he yells, his hearing aid turned up full volume. May was among the thousands of Dust Bowl “Okies” and “Arkies” who left drought and depression in the Midwest for the sunny skies and green fields of California. … ”  Read more from KALW here:  Will the water come to Okieville, California?

Approaching storm looks to give Santa Barbara a good soaking:  “Santa Barbara County is in line for a major soaking on Friday — and the possibility of widespread flooding — as one of the most powerful winter storms in recent years takes aim at the region.  Areas along the county’s South Coast, from Gaviota to Carpinteria, are expected to receive 4-5 inches of rain, while some mountain locations could get up to 9 inches, according to Tom Fisher, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.  “It’s a perfectly oriented storm,” Fisher told Noozhawk. ... ”  Read more from Noozhawk here:  Approaching storm looks to give Santa Barbara a good soaking

LA County Supervisors order inspections of county dams in wake of Oroville crisis:  “The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has ordered inspections of all county dams, spillways and other flood control infrastructure, prompted by the emergency at Lake Oroville in Northern California over the past week, when failures of two spillways used to lower the lake’s water level prompted mandatory evacuations.  Supervisor Kathryn Barger called for the inspections on Tuesday, and her motion was unanimously approved by the board.  … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  LA County Supervisors order inspections of county dams in wake of Oroville crisis

Precipitation watch …

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

Sign up for daily email service and you’ll never miss a post …

Daily emailsSign up for free daily email service and you’ll get all the Notebook’s aggregated and original water news content delivered to your email box by 9AM. And with breaking news alerts, you’ll always be one of the first to know …


About the Daily Digest: The Daily Digest is a collection of selected news articles, commentaries and editorials appearing in the mainstream press. Items are generally selected to follow the focus of the Notebook blog. The Daily Digest is published every weekday with a weekend edition posting on Sundays.

 

(Visited 680 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply