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Oroville Dam Crisis

 

This past winter season’s rain has helped California and its residents get a leg up on the drought that has plagued the state in recent years. The only major downside of this rain is the overfilling of many reservoirs throughout California, particularly the Oroville Dam in Northern California.

The Oroville Dam is the largest in the United States and holds 1.1 trillion gallons of water.  Unfortunately, due to the aging infrastructure and large amounts of rainfall, the Oroville Dam experienced an overflow of water and created an immediate threat of flooding towards all surrounding towns. The reason for this catastrophe was due to a very large hole in the runway of the dam’s main spillway. After this main spillway was rendered somewhat useless water had nowhere to go.  As water levels continued to rise, water began flowing over the “emergency spillway” which is located at the top of the dam. This “emergency spillway” hasn’t had to be used in over 50 years and is what many called a last resort. Unfortunately, this last resort had many negative effects such as water eroding the ground on the side of the hill and forming deep gullies.  Luckily the rain began to lighten and officials stated that the main spillway could now once again be used despite the deep hole in the concrete.

Losing control of the dam for this short amount of time caused lots of legitimate worries. In addition to  the 180,000 people that were forced to evacuate their homes, losing the water in this dam would have created severe water shortages throughout California. Though the situation seemed as bad as it could get, in reality the people of California should consider themselves lucky.  The dam is projected to be rebuilt when the rain completely dies down and until then officials are keeping a watchful eye on the situation. Hopefully all goes as planned regarding the reconstruction of the dam and this will be a lesson that it is crucial to keep dam infrastructure updated.

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