Storm Runoff Brings Plenty of Water to California’s Second-Largest Dam

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Water flows down a hillside from the emergency spillway at Lake Oroville on Feb. 12, 2017. (Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

At 8 a.m. Saturday, a sheet of water began spilling from the brim of California’s second-largest reservoir and washing down a partly cleared hill to the Feather River.

It was the first time in the 48-year history of Lake Oroville that the reservoir was so full that it triggered uncontrolled releases down an emergency spillway.

Bloated with storm runoff, the reservoir had gone from 80% full to overflowing in less than a week when managers were forced to reduce releases on Oroville’s heavily damaged concrete spillway.

The emergency spillway was doing what it was supposed to do: letting water out of the huge lake so it wouldn’t top the dam.

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