Water Shut From Oroville Dam’s Damaged Spillway in Race Against Mother Nature

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With a reduced flow on Feb. 19, 2017, most of the water being released from the Oroville Dam is not going down the spillway, it's broken through and is going down the hillside. (Credit: Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

The effort to protect Oroville Dam entered a critical phase Monday when engineers shut off water flowing out of the damaged main spillway, giving officials their first unobstructed view of the eroded concrete chute since a crisis prompted mass evacuations earlier this month.

For the next five to seven days, geologists and engineers will have an unhindered view of the concrete spillway, which on Monday was revealed to have severely deteriorated on its lower half during the last two weeks of use.

Repairs for the spillway are estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and no timeline has been set for when they would be completed.

With the water flow shut off — and with it, the frothing rapids in a plunge pool at the bottom — the top  priority is to clean out tons of sediment, rock and debris that have prevented the Hyatt Powerplant at the dam’s base from operating, said Bill Croyle, acting director for the state Department of Water Resources.

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