Oroville Dam Operators Open Emergency Spillway Amid Rising Waters; Public Safe: Officials

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Millions of gallons of rushing water continue to pound and erode the massive Lake Oroville Dam spillway on Feb. 10, 2017. (Credit: Brian van der Burg/Los Angeles Times)

Capping days of tense planning at the nation’s tallest dam, officials on Saturday sent water down an emergency spillway at the Oroville Dam for the first time ever after the dam’s main spillway suffered significant damage.

Water started flowing down the emergency spillway into the Feather River on Saturday morning, with officials continuing to emphasize there was no imminent threat to the public or to the integrity of the dam.

In a statement, the Department of Water Resources said Lake Oroville — the lynchpin of the state’s water system that sends water from the Sierra Nevada south to cities and farms — was rising to the point where water would flow down the emergency spillway. At 8 a.m., the agency said on Twitter the spillway was now in operation.

Dam operators said Friday that they hoped not to have to use the emergency spillway over the weekend, but crews continued preparing the area just in case.

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