The “Oroville Dam: Report places blame on decades of neglect, human error” story was published by sf.curbed.com and written By
During the torrential downpours of early 2017, Butte County’s Oroville Dam—the tallest dam in the United States, which creates a reservoir capacity of roughly 3.5 million acre feet and generates enough electricity to power 737,000 homes per year—nearly suffered a complete disaster that would have destroyed the homes of tens of thousands of Californians.
There was never any danger of the dam itself failing. But the reservoir was dangerously full, and the emergency spillways designed to channel excess water safely away were so badly damaged that they nearly collapsed and unleashed a “three-story wall of water” on population centers below.
Good luck and hard work kept that from happening. However, in the aftermath of the near-catastrophe, the state assigned a six-person team of geologists and engineers to determine how we came so close to a heart-stopping disaster.
Today the panel released nearly 600-page report, and the verdict is nothing short of withering. According to the audit, decades of oversights, overconfidence, and even laziness resulting from a systemic and all-encompassing culture of error in state water resource management and regulation made the Oroville incident essentially inevitable sooner or later.