A tense, historic day at Oroville Dam captured in dramatic videos


History was made Saturday as the emergency spillway at mighty Oroville Dam — the nation’s tallest — was brought into action because of damage at the dam’s main spillway.

Eric See, a spokesman for the state Department of Water Resources, said it was the first time the auxiliary spillway was used to drain water from the lake since the dam was finished in 1968.

A historic flow

Water started flowing down the spillway into the Feather River early Saturday, with officials continuing to emphasize there was no imminent threat to the public or to the integrity of the dam.

Here’s what it looked like:

Lake Oroville filling

Officials said the flow of water into the Feather River is about half of the downstream flood capacity and consistent with releases made at the same time of year during previous wet years such as this.

Bill Croyle, acting director of the water department, reiterated that the flow is less than half of what the system is designed to handle.

The emergency spillway was used as Lake Oroville approached capacity.

Here’s what that looked like:

Damaged spillway

The drama started at Oroville Dam earlier this week when the main spillway was damaged.

A gaping hole — some 250 feet long and 45 feet deep — appeared Tuesday in the lower part of the main spillway, a concrete channel that rests on dirt. The state shut down releases from the spillway for a time but then restarted them to counter inflows to the lake from the week’s storms.

It may cost $100 million to $200 million to repair the damage to the spillway and other features.