Crews rush to repair dam central to Northern California life
Crews working around the clock atop a crippled California dam reported progress Tuesday in repairing the damaged spillway and reducing the water level by at least 8 feet at the reservoir that has been central to this farming region for a half century.
Helicopters carried giant sandbags and cement blocks from a staging area on the south side of the Oroville Dam toward the stricken spillway on the north side. Crews operating heavy equipment loaded rocks and boulders into dump trucks, which carried them over the dam and dumped them on damaged portions.
Workers are rushing to repair the barrier at the nation’s tallest dam after authorities ordered the evacuation of nearly 200,000 people living below the lake amid concerns the spillway could fail and send water roaring downstream. Evacuations remain in place.
Gov. Jerry Brown asked for direct federal assistance for an estimated 10,000 displaced residents.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said President Donald Trump “was keeping a close eye” on the situation and “working closely” with state officials.
“The situation is a textbook example of why we need to pursue a major infrastructure package in Congress,” Spicer said at news conference in Washington.
State Department of Water Resources officials hope to reduce the lake level to 860 feet by Thursday, when storms are expected to bring more rain, spokesman Chris Orrock said. The level was 884 feet on Tuesday morning.
The lake that for five decades has brought residents holiday fireworks and salmon festivals now could bring disaster.
“Never in our lives did we think anything like this would have happened,” said Brannan Ramirez, who has lived in Oroville, a town of about 16,000 people, for about five years.
The Gold Rush town in the Sierra Nevada foothills, some 70 miles northeast of Sacramento, is nestled near the foot of the dam, which was completed in 1968 and at 770 feet is the nation’s tallest. Houses and churches are perched on treelined streets near the Feather River. Old, ornate Victorian homes sit alongside smaller bungalows.
Cities and towns farther down the Feather River also are in danger.
Evacuees from city’s surrounding the Oroville Dam line up for dinner at a shelter Monday.