An engineer with 20-plus years experience working on dams fears the Oroville dam could be in trouble again. He says the same problem which led to the failure of the main spillway in 2017 is still happening.
The state has spent more than a billion dollars rebuilding the main and emergency spillways at Oroville dam. Now, expert Scott Cahill told News Radio KFBK, water can be seen seeping from the foot of the dam and dozens of points along the new spillway.
"That concrete spillway slab is now moving water, which is evolving up through the slab today," Cahill told News Radio KFBK. "Very similar to what it did before the failure (in 2017)."
Cahill has seen this with his own eyes. He's even more concerned with cracks in the gates along the crest of the dam, something he says is already in what he calls failure mode.
"The possibility exists that a cutback will occur there that will allow the pool to release," Cahill insisted. "At that point we'll no longer have control over the velocity or the amount of water that's moved downstream."
Cahill said he has sent his concerns to the California Department of Water Resources, but he claims those officials have not replied.
The DWR issued a statement to a KFBK request for comment on Cahill's claims.
"DWR is confident in how we have repaired and reconstructed the main and emergency spillways, using the best engineering practices available and with constantoversight by state and federal regulators to ensure the safety of the downstream communities the facility protects. DWR and its construction contractor Kiewit worked on the design and construction of both the main emergency spillways under the oversight and with the approval of an independentBoard of Consultantsand state and federal regulators," said spokeswoman Erin Mellon. "DWR is aware and anticipated some water to seep through the main spillway gates this winter. As the reservoir surpasses elevation 813 feet (the elevation of the spillway gates), some water does seep through the gates onto the spillway as the gates are not designed to be water tight. We issued a press release anticipating this on March 5. It has also been reported on in previous years.
Mellon also suggested Cahill may have never set foot the dam.
"DWR and Kiewit maintain records of visits to the dam and spillways and have no record of Mr. Cahill visiting the facility. As you know, the dam and spillway have been inaccessible to the public during reconstruction. I do have an email from a member of the public saying he visited the Oroville area at the end of April 2017 but as you know, that was well before reconstruction began."