Reconstructed spillway ready for rising Lake Oroville

Monday the lake was just a couple of feet below the gate of the new spillway and the DWR says, expect to see some water seeping down.

Posted: Mar 4, 2019 5:33 PM
Updated: Mar 4, 2019 5:38 PM

Oroville, Calif. -- With so much water flowing into Lake Oroville from recent storms, we could soon see water released down the Oroville Dam Spillway for the first time in two years.

Some who evacuated are now closely watching, with the memories of the Spillway Crisis still in mind.

"Panic. I had to gather people up and get out, quick. I had to go back and get my dogs later," said William Cooksey.

"It was very scary, having to leave the home, wondering if your belongings were going to be there when you got back," said Harold Cooksey.

Almost 200,000 people took off and left everything behind.

"I thought it was going to flush and then I went to Chico the next day where everybody else went, cause if it did break, I couldn't get out up there," said Cooksey.

February, 12th 2017; the Lake hit capacity, spilling over the emergency outlet, eroding the hillside and flooding of the Feather River below.

Two years and more than a billion dollars later, the DWR says the new spillway is ready to handle water flow.

And it's coming - Monday, Lake Oroville was just a few feet below the spillway's gate.

With more rain on the way, the DWR says they expect water to start seeping down soon. But is it too soon?

"I have a high degree of confidence in the reconstruction of the flood control spillway and emergency spillway, I doubt very seriously we'd get to the point where the emergency spillway would be utilized," said Sheriff Honea.

The DWR agrees with the sheriff and says it's right on track for the plan to get to lake up another 30 feet in the next month, to build up the water supply and offer Summer recreation.

"I believe it's going to be right, they've been testing it," said William Cooksey.

"I hope so, they'll probably do the best they can, but things happen," said Harold Cooksey.

"That said, we've learned a lot, over the course of the last 2 years so if we got to the point where there was some elevated risk we'd need to deal with, we're in a better position to handle it this year," said Sheriff Honea.

The DWR's taken it's crews and equipment off the spillway -- they're ready to use it to manage lake levels through the season ahead.

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