Oroville Dam gained worldwide attention in February 2017 when crumbling spillways at the nation’s tallest dam triggered one of the largest evacuations in California history. The near catastrophe remains a socioeconomic blow to downstream communities. It will require substantial ecological remediation, as more than 1.7 million cubic yards of sediment washed into the Feather River below Oroville Dam—enough to cover a football field 80 stories high.
While repair work is moving forward at Oroville, significant issues remain to be addressed. This incident is a wake-up call for action on several fronts at this facility and at thousands of other high-hazard dams in the United States. Dam operators and regulators must ensure a safe and reliable water system that protects communities and the rivers that flow through them. A warming climate with changing precipitation patterns is putting even greater pressure on these dams and underscores the urgency.
The Oroville Dam 2017 Spillway Incident: Lessons from the Feather River Basin makes 18 recommendations and dozens of sub-recommendations. It calls for action to address California’s aging dam infrastructure, operate dams more safely and efficiently, advance multi-benefit flood management projects, and increase transparency and public engagement.