I have lived by the Feather River in Northern California for many years. When the spillway “incident” happened at the Oroville Dam in February of 2017, I became much more interested in the history of the Feather River. Since then, I have decided to more or less “specialize” in the Feather River. That is leading me down a very interesting path of learning about lakes, rivers, dams, levees, and other parts of the amazing water systems that make up the California Water Project.
The header photo above was taken from a postcard in my personal collection showing the early days of the Edward Hyatt Power Plant at the Oroville Dam.
When I made the YouTube video, “7 Questions for DWR about Wet Area by Spillway at Oroville Dam 5/24/17” I did not really expect the answers to be forthcoming from DWR. In the video, I state very specifically that the PURPOSE of the video is to bring the questions to the public forum for consideration. Some people have not understood the meaning of bringing something to the table for discussion/consideration. It has been misinterpreted to mean that I am waiting for DWR to answer my questions and that, until they do, I am hopelessly wandering around without a clue as I await their response.
Does anyone really think that I could live below the dam and within the sphere of influence of the Deparment of Water Resources for 27 years and yet believe that my list of questions is going to be addressed because I made a YouTube video? Come on!
What started as my documentation of the concerns I had about the wet area has turned into way too much drama. Living below the dam is already enough drama for me. Add to that the rude trolling comments from people who accuse me of being:
- Stupid for believing that the wet area is a problem
- Crazy for thinking DWR will answer my questions
- Uninformed for thinking it is a sinkhole
- A “sheeple” for not storming the Sacramento DWR office with my questions in hand
- Not among the elite who “know the real truth” and are ready and willing to expound upon it
** Please Note: ** Nowhere in the video do I call the wet area a sinkhole.
Well, after bringing my questions to the public forum for discussion, I gathered a lot of information, continued my own research into the matter, and thereby found all the answers I need in order to move on to the next dam topic on my list.
Here are my seven questions, with their answers in bold font:
- Could this area be the entrance point for water seeping below the auxiliary spillway weir, which could possibly connect to another vein of permeable soil, thereby creating a flow channel that could in some way undercut the auxiliary spillway foundation (under the repair shotcrete) . . . or possibly seep under the concrete slabs of the upper main spillway chute and/or the gatehouse structure? YES, per dam experts Scott and Lisa Cahill (and others with similar viewpoints).
- What changed between DWR’s May 16th and May 20th videos to cause the terrain in that area to look so different, and for a cavern-like, obviously sunken section to literally disappear? We may never know. If there is a cover-up, no one will tell, and if there isn’t, there is no need to pursue it.
- When intense coring and geological studies were carried out in that area at the time of the early incident response phase, what was actually done and what was the conclusion? No need to answer this now, because the answer to #1 makes this a moot issue anyway. (The conclusion must be that there is a problem in that area.)
- What is that thing in the May 20th video that looks like a pump or valve, what is its purpose, and what is it doing there? It is more than likely a pump or valve and could be there for a number of reasons.
- Does this area have any bearing on water management levels? For instance, would the water rising above that level exert pressure and cause seepage below and onto the other side of the auxiliary spillway or any other place (e.g. the gatehouse structure and/or the upper chute concrete slabs)? The part about pressure and seepage is covered in the answer to #1. Whether it has any bearing on water management levels will be answered when the reservoir level is on its way up again.
- Could this area be the entrance point to, or have something to do with, the areas of concern that caused Sheriff Honea to make his decision to evacuate? Considering that the answer to #1 is Yes, one can safely conclude that there is a good possibility of there being some correlation.
- If it is not a sinkhole now, could it become one? The answer to this question can be determined by reading up on sinkholes.
I removed the video from my public YouTube list because its purpose has been served. I don’t choose to continue the rhetoric about the questions.
When a YouTube video goes from Public to Private status, the view count for that video is lost. In my opinion, it is worth losing over 3,000 views in order to move forward. If I thought it would help any more people, I would post it publicly again, but it only causes dissension to belabor the points. That doesn’t mean the issues underlying my questions have gone away. It just means there may be other questions to ask now. I appreciate everyone who has viewed and/or provided productive commentary on my video. Thank you.
I have been reviewing some newspaper articles from around the time of the evacuation on February 12, 2017. Here is one from the Mercury News:
Oroville Dam: Feds and State officials ignored warnings 12 years ago
I don’t generally get deeply embroiled in the politics of California water, but it is a fact of life that money and greed influence decisions, particularly at top levels of business and government. The following article by Dan Bacher on 2/23/17 provides a comprehensive summary that I found interesting:
The untold story of the Oroville Dam Crisis: the corporate money behind CA water politics
I found this interesting article about the engineering contractor that was hired to fix the river outlet diversion tunnel at Oroville Dam.
Syblon Reid Contractors