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Residents Near Oroville Dam May Return Home, But Evacuation Warning Remains

William Croyle/California Department of Water Resources

UPDATE 3:20 p.m.:  Nearly 200,000 residents directly downstream from the Oroville Dam can now return to their evacuated communities.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea downgraded the evacuation order to a warning this afternoon.

He says the move allows people to head home.

"But, we're telling them that they have to be vigilant, they have to pay attention to what's going on, and there is the prospect that we could issue another evacuation order if the circumstances change and the risk increases," he says. 

Residents were told to evacuate Sunday when Lake Oroville officials determined the emergency spillway had the potential to fail.

Since then, lake levels have dropped well below the structure and crews have been working to fill a pocket of erosion near the emergency spillway with boulders and concrete.

-Randol White / Capital Public Radio

UPDATE 1:58 p.m.: Officials say there is no longer a mandatory evacuation order for communities near the Oroville Dam. They are instead reducing that order to an evacuation warning. 

Officials say that means residents returning home should remain vigilant. Future evacuation orders could be issued if the current situation at the spillway changes.

As many as 200,000 residents were displaced due to the initial order issued this past Sunday.  


-Capital Public Radio Staff


Evacuation Orders remain in place for: 

  • Butte County: Oroville Area: Downtown Oroville and Thermalito, the areas south of Lincoln Blvd on the west side of Lincoln to Ophir Road.
  • All low lying areas around the Feather River, which includes Gridley, Biggs, Yuba City, Loma Rica, and anywhere south of Butte County along the River. 
  • All jurisdictions of Yuba County, Sutter County

Flash Flood Warning for: South, central Butte County until Tuesday, Feb. 14 at 4:15 p.m.

Update 8 a.m.: Engineers at Lake Oroville are working to drop the reservoir's surface level by 50 feet in the coming days. The Department of Water Resources says that could take up to two weeks or longer depending on future weather conditions. Nearly 200,000 people are currently part of an emergency evacuation downstream from an eroding pair of spillways adjacent to Oroville Dam.

Republican Congressman Doug LaMalfa's district includes a large portion of the affected area. He says the immediate goal is to get through this crisis without any loss of life or undue harm.

"But also to immediately, when this is over with, to move forward and restore the function of the spillway and the dam because we'll have until next November to have something that works depending on what next year's rainfall's going to be," says LaMalfa.

The surface level at California's second-largest reservoir has fallen below the height of the emergency spillway Monday night. This gives engineers time to assess the situation and come up with possible emergency fixes. Roughly 100,000 cubic feet of water per second is being sent over the primary spillway, that began showing major signs of erosion last Tuesday. 

The state Department of Water Resources says the clarity of the water coming down the base of that shoot shows the rate of erosion has slowed.

-Randol White / Capital Public Radio

Update 7 a.m.: Lake Oroville, already central to the life of surrounding communities, has now become all-important. Nearly 200,000 people are still out of their homes because of fear the lake will breach its banks and unleash a wall of water because of an overtaxed dam system.

Public agencies are working hard to shore up an eroded spillway before another storm comes. Meanwhile, Governor Jerry Brown says he wasn't previously aware of a report that surfaced yesterday indicating environmentalists raised concerns about the Oroville Dam emergency spillway in 2005.

Those concerns, filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, show three advocacy groups said using the emergency spillway on the tallest U.S. dam would cause significant erosion. The groups warned of a failure of the dam itself that would threaten lives and property. In 2008, state officials said no "significant concerns" about the spillway's integrity had been raised in any government or independent review.

-The Associated Press

Original Post: California authorities say an evacuation order issued Sunday for nearly 200,000 people will remain in place until repairs are made to the spillway system of Lake Oroville, about 70 miles north of Sacramento.

Helicopters are being used to drop giant rock-filled bags into a hole in the Oroville Dam emergency spillway. A failure could send a 30-foot wall of water gushing toward the Feather River.

Governor Jerry Brown has sent a letter to President Donald Trump requesting further federal aid for the Oroville Dam emergency. Contrary to Trump's earlier statements about withholding aid from California, the federal government's Army Corps of Engineers is already helping respond to the Oroville Dam crisis. And Brown seemed optimistic that his request for further assistance would be granted. He says he spoke with one of Trump's "recently confirmed" cabinet members Monday, though he wouldn't say which member.

In his letter to the president, Brown says the number of evacuees in shelters on Sunday night was more than 3,200 people and the number is expected to rise. He has requested federal assistance for 10,000 evacuees in Butte, Sutter and Yuba counties. He says California has had more than a dozen disasters in the past year, including several devastating wildfires. And these events have significantly drained California's own financial ability to respond.

Meanwhile, the governor says he wasn't previously aware of a report that surfaced yesterday indicating environmentalists raised concerns about the Oroville Dam emergency spillway in 2005. Brown says he's glad he found out about the report and adds that it was not part of previous records he had seen.

The 2005 motion filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission shows three advocacy groups said using the emergency spillway on the tallest U-S dam would cause significant erosion. The groups warned of a failure of the dam itself that would threaten lives and property. State officials said in 2008 no "significant concerns" about the spillway's integrity had been raised in any government or independent review.

-Sally Schilling / Capital Public Radio

Evacuation Centers:

Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico at 2357 Fair Street 

Neighborhood Church of Chico, 2801 Notre Dame Blvd. (no animals inside)

St. Johns Episcopal Church, 2341 Floral Avenue, Chico (small animals accepted if leashed and crated)

Paradise Alliance Church (CMA), 6491 Clark Road (small animals accepted, RVs allowed in Parking Lot) - FULL

Elks Lodge (Paradise) 1100 Elks Lane, Paradise - (no small animals accepted, RVs allowed in Parking Lot)

Glenn County Fairgrounds, 221 E. Yolo St. Orland, CA (accepting livestock, no small animals, 40 RV sites) - FULL

Colusa County Fairgrounds in Colusa at 1303 10th Street 

Neighborhood Church in Chico at 2801 Notre Dame Boulevard

Grace Community Church in Chico at  2346 Floral

Alcouffe Community Center on Marysville Road, Oregon House

Glenn County Fairgrounds in Orland at 221 E. Yolo Street

Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley at 11228 McCourtney Road - FULL

First Baptist Church in Grass Valley at 1866 Ridge Road - FULL

Calvary Bible Church in Grass Valley at 11481 CA-174

Placer County Fairgrounds in Roseville at 800 All America City Blvd

Yolo County Fairgrounds in Woodland at 1250 East Gum Avenue

Sutter High School in Sutter at 2665 Acacia Ave 

Citrus Heights Community Center in Citrus Heights at 6300 Fountain Square Drive

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg tweeted Sunday night that local Sikh Temples are open for evacuees. 

Alternate Locations for RVs:

Rolling Hils RV Park, Corning 

School Closures in Butte County:

Bangor Union Elementary School District, Biggs Unified School District, Durham Unified School District, Feather Falls Union Elementary School District, Golden Feather Union Elementary School District, Gridley Unified School District, Manzanita Elementary School District, Oroville Elementary School District, Oroville Union High School District, Palermo Union Elementary School District, Pioneer Union Elementary School District and Thermalito Union Elementary School District in Butte County.  All of Butte County Office of Education offices and schools in Oroville will also be closed.

Butte College will be closed Monday.

School Closures in Sutter County and Yuba Counties:

All Yuba and Sutter County schools are canceled Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017 except for Camptonville.

School Closures in Yuba City:

Yuba City Unified School District will be closed Tuesday, Feb. 14. 

Other closures:

The following Yuba City facilities will remain closed Tuesday, Feb. 14: City Hall, GAP and the Senior Center

Sutter County offices remain closed Tuesday, Feb. 14

Road Closures: 

Due to the #OrovilleDam emergency, the following Caltrans HQ hard road closures are in place: 

State Route 99 at Durham-Pentz Rd. 
State Route 99 at State Route 149
State Route 70 at Clark Rd.
State Route 70 at State Route 149
EB State Route 20 at Aquas Frias 
State Route 70 at Woodruff Ln.
State Route 70 at State Route 20 
State Route 99 at State Route 20

Additional roads closed from State Route 70 to State Route 99:
EB/WB Cottownwood Rd.
EB/WB Nelson Shippee Rd.
EB/WB State Route 162 (Oro Dam Blvd.)

Other Road Closures

Emergency Numbers:

For information about the Oroville Spillway: (530) 872-5951
Sutter County Information Lines: (530) 822-4988 or (530) 822-7556

Copyright 2017 Capital Public Radio