Californians are returning to their homes after a swift evacuating a potential collapse that could cause a spillway holding back Lake Oroville to flood nearby areas.
Lake Oroville is one of California’s largest water reservoirs, second in volume only to Shasta Lake, and the Oroville dam is the tallest nationwide. The extent of the damage could have affected close to 200,000 people.
Although the authorities have informed the evacuated residents that they could return home, a state of federal disaster was declared by the US president for areas potentially affected by the collapse –areas that include Sutter, Yuba and Butter counties.
The presidential order also authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide relief support in coordination with the concerned local and state agencies.
However, the residents of Oroville and other cities along the Feather River are concerned over their situation because of the persisting evacuation warning. The residents of Butte County were told by Kory Honea, the county sheriff, that they should be ready to leave again at a moment’s notice.
People sheltering at the Silver Dollar Fair Grounds in Chico received the news of the situation being changed to a warning with high hopes, as one resident form Oroville, Robert kint, told his wife “We’re going home. Happy Valentine’s Day, sweetheart.”
Downstream, others, like Alicia Tindel, a 37 year old mother and her daughter, although went back to Yuba City, are not intending to stay.
Their plan is to prepare by gathering items they could not take with them the first time. She stated that the people in Yuba City are very aware of the danger and the possibility of another evacuation.
Mixed feelings arose about the situation; while some residents feel that it is irresponsible to let people back into the danger areas, state and local officials have been reassessing the anxious residents and informing them that they are safe.
Sheriff Honea said in defense of the evacuation “Thousands of lives were protected from the looming prospect of a catastrophic failure” although he did continue to add that after the erosion had been inspected by the DWR, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the United Statures Army Corps of Engineers, the spillway was not found to be compromised at the time of the evacuation.
Solutions and Efforts
Meanwhile, efforts are being made round the clock by the department of water resources (DWR) to fix the erosion that caused the scare of collapse in the first place using large rocks and helicopters to place them into the crevasse.
The department is also aiming to decrease the level of water in the lake and has been successful in doing so by 15 feet by Tuesday along with allowing 100,000 cubic feet per second through the spillway in hopes of reducing the lake to 50 feet below capacity by the weekend.
The goal being: remove enough water from the lake to reduce the danger.