Oroville Reservoir reaches 'pivot point,' state water official says

Oroville Spillway work				
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Water from the spillway and the dam's power plant has been shut off so the cleanup work could happen. Officials have halted flows down the main spillway during recent dry weather to clear debris.

Since Monday, crews have worked round the clock to remove some 168,000 cubic yards of trees, rock and sediment that settled beneath the dam. State officials were able to get it working again Friday, but it was not pumping water fast enough. If that could be piled completely on a football field, it would be 75 feet tall.

The pool is normally 70 feet deep at the bottom of the spillway, Croyle said.

For the first time since a crisis at Oroville Reservoir forced the evacuation of more than 100,000 people nearly three weeks ago, engineers reactivated a vital hydroelectric plant at the base of the towering dam on Friday.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said Friday that he expects to release detailed evacuation plans next week that will show which homes are at risk in the event of a future failure at the dam, limiting the mass chaos that ensued when people rushed to higher ground when the blanket evacuation order was given. He said he will re-evaluate after the weekend, over which some rain is expected.

Almost 200,000 people were ordered to evacuate from parts of three counties when experts discovered severe erosion and feared it could cause the collapse of a concrete weir holding water in the lake. With inflow under 20,000 cfs, the lake is rising about a foot every 10 hours.

The problems at Lake Oroville began early last month when officials discovered a massive crater in the main concrete spillway used to release water during wet winter months.

As of 5 p.m. Friday, the lake water level was 849.19 feet according to the DWR website, more than 51 feet below the 901-foot elevation of the top of the emergency spillway.

Meanwhile, Chinook salmon and steelhead hatchlings are requiring rescues from pools all along the Feather River that were created when the water levels dropped.

Flows to meet environmental requirements are being met by releases through the Thermalito Diversion Dam and Thermalito Afterbay River Outlet.

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