Oroville Dam Disaster Is Inevitable Due To Poor Design, Ridiculous Planning And Disregard Of Geology


A 1997 report from 30 years ago pointed out that the Oroville dam has poor flood control systems: This report was a Congressional hearing about water management and of course, how the Reagan dam projects in particular, are very poorly set up and are definitely prone to overtopping and collapse.  The history of the Oroville dam is most interesting to me at least, for I grew up in the Southwest and remember the Water Wars really good.  Note the book illustration shows a LA home perched right on the precipice, a cliff on the ocean!  HAHAHA.  On stilts, no less!


The Water Wars were over the business of who gets the water from Hoover and FDR’s Hoover Dam.  California, which contributed 0 water sources for the dam’s water flow, wanted half of the water.  This fight over ‘who gets the water’ happened in my childhood and I remember the adults arguing about this, for I have had family in both southern California since the Gold Rush and Arizona since the Civil War.


It was a very hot debate and California got some of the water and other resources but not as much as they wanted for they wanted endless amounts of everything and frankly, still do!


So, finally defeated by mainly Barry Goldwater’s work, the government of California decided to build the world’s biggest dirt dam on earth: Oroville dam.



Several decades ago, they realized that keeping the water too high was too dangerous and this report complains about how certain dams were being run improperly when it comes to very rainy seasons in California, a place known for flood/drought cycles.


NO lessons were learned, obviously.  California had yet another of the usual drought cycles recently and due to global warming ideology, pretended that the climate would be hot and dry forever and forever so any water captured should be held no matter what.


So instead of keeping the Oroville dam water at roughly half or even two thirds full, they went for totally to the top!  This was a human error and now the dam will probably give way eventually, sooner rather than later.



Yes, they deliberately overfilled the dam this wet cycle.  More storms will come and then we have 200+ inches of snow to melt, and that will increase the water greatly, too.  This is now all too insane.


The waters yesterday totally overtopped the dam.  The super duper emergency dam section which is a quarter mile long was overtopped and the entire mountain of dirt placed there 50 years ago had a huge amount of raging water flow over it removing all vegetation leaving open dirt.  The trees were already removed this week but the grass is now gone and more rain will come…


It is doomed.  Turbulence within the lake with all this incoming water and water pressure will, in the next storm, cause more internal erosion on the dirt dam facing the lake.  Most dam collapses have two features: the top is lost and water begins to pour out and the base then explodes outward and all the dam rushes down in one giant tsunami.


Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963




So, what pushed it past the legislature was flooding in the 1950’s.  The dams were supposed to stop FLOODING.  Instead, they now are for hoarding water because the state now has way too many humans and agriculture has changed greatly since 1940 and this is one of the least stable states in the US, geologically, it is a nightmare.


Earthquakes, of course, is the gigantic problem.



‘The Oroville dam services as a major electrical course.  The Hoover dam does this, too.  And California, Nevada, Arizona all get this electricity, Las Vegas would not have ever existed if it wasn’t for the cheap electricity from the Hoover Dam.


Oroville dam is producing electricity, too.  The power lines are now down because these were removed to prevent the towers from being swept away in flooding only if the main dam breaks and there is a good chance of this happening, it will no longer matter, the power plant will be annihilated.


Along with a number of cities, of course, which will be badly damaged, perhaps, for some, along the lines of towns annihilated in Japan by the tsunami.


Now on to the insanity that rages in California:  The San Francisco Chronicle had this insane article back 2 months ago when the author assumed it would be dry forever:


More than a third of all the trees in California – more than 100 million of them, covering roughly 7.7 million acres – are dead.


But it’s OK, because the forests are largely empty anyway, given how we as a glorious human species have thoughtfully killed off half of all animals on planet Earth, all in just the past 45 years or so, because people.


It’s a statistic almost too staggering to fathom in scope and heartbreaking desolation, yet it seems to match up shockingly well with the current emotional timbre; there are hundreds of millions fewer birds than ever before in human history, desolated fish stocks, obliterated rainforests, dwindling numbers of elephants, lions, butterflies, rhinos and iguanas and leopards, on and on, everywhere and forever, all gone and most never to return. Sorry, kids.


Mark Morford, obviously is not a multi-generational Californian. He thinks a short dry cycle is the end of the world. HAHAHA.  The state is stressed by this dry cycle only because way too many humans live here.  But then, humans love to live in disaster areas around say, major volcanoes, flood plains, earthquake zones, etc.


 Kids? Oh, we have plenty of those. There are, of course, many, many more babies swarming over the planet than we have healthy capacity to feed and water and sustain, on ongoing and sort of disastrous procreative commandment driven largely by the efforts of heavily Catholic and/or violently patriarchal cultural posturing, because of course babies are God’s little angels and the Lord will provide and birth control is for heathens, and who cares about all the starvation and water shortages and poverty and vicious wars over dwindling resources?


Just one rather short dry cycle, look at the histrionics.  Note how he rages on about too many babies, too.  Meanwhile, liberals like him want more Muslims to come here and in Europe and have…lots of babies!


Note also, he attacks Christians very hard and doesn’t mention Muslims because their leaders are against birth controls.  I bet this same liberal would blow up if anyone suggests that the State should mandate abortions and birth controls for women on welfare.  Nope, they can pop out as many babies as they wish.  The more, the merrier, right?


Even comedians are getting nervous. Hecklers are turning pro. No longer just loutish, drunken rednecks who don’t get the joke, they’re newly empowered defenders of ignorance, an army of mal-educated trolls who feel it’s their Trump-given right to stand up and grunt their illiteracy, their sexism and their racism at the screen, the stage, the performer, this hamburger, that Starbucks cup, whatever and whomever they like, to the point of violence.


In this huge rage against everything, this poor man whines about Trump people being mean when the rioters are, uniformly, not Republicans at all. They are leftists or the left makes excuses for riots.


Meanwhile, California is heading towards disaster, the entire length of the San Andreas fault system including all the nearby faults, are shaking now like jello with the frozen part that hasn’t budged an inch in nearly 200 years, is about to explode northwards.


The water problems from that will be gigantic not to mention other nasty side effects of moving the earth rapidly with stationary buildings and roads all over the place.


One last thing: the NYT has the potential dam collapse and perhaps destruction of the homes of over 100,000 people as a low level story, I am preserving this page of the NYT showing how low this story ranks now with Fake News dominating everything and the need to attack Trump so high, it consumes all important real news:


There it is: below ‘does Yoga qualify as an aerobic workout?  And ‘aging well’?  HAHAHA.  Yikes. It is nearly the bottom of the page!



Filed under .money matters

24 responses to “Oroville Dam Disaster Is Inevitable Due To Poor Design, Ridiculous Planning And Disregard Of Geology

  1. ziff

    i dunno, dams fail when they leak along the side or underneath, not the case here.

  2. Jim R

    It’s made of mud. What an excellent idea …

    When the flood finishes with it, it will be the mother of all shovel-ready projects.

  3. Moe

    So, it is not deficient design or construction or original flood control policy at fault. but state negligence that caused this hazard.

  4. ziff

    only danger i see is the spillway area eroding back ,possible

  5. KHS71

    The NYT will not give this story much coverage because they have yet to figure out how to blame it on Trump. Once they do, then it will get top billing above the fold. Note the Grammy’s get top billing which is a worthless event. Fake news again.
    Mother Nature will win again. It will do what it will do. Man can not stop it. We watched this in the ’93 flood here in KC. Cities tried to sandbag areas to stop the water. None were successful. The water destroyed everything in its path. Water is enormously powerful. If this dam fails, it will be a catastrophic event. I do not wish to see that happen.

  6. I wish a geologist would comment here. I’ve looked at the pictures and some diagrams of the internal design (https://www.britannica.com/topic/Oroville-Dam). The best that I can determine is that the emergency spill way is a 30ft dam built on bedrock. The worst that can happen here is a sudden release of 30ft of water – a terrible disaster – but not cataclysmic – the main dam would survive. The main spill way is toast about 2/3rds of the way down. And while it has undermined the ground in the vicinity it appears to have eroded down to bed rock and the undermining appears to have ceased. Spill way erosion is a well know design problem so I hope the engineers understood the underlying geology in the event of these kinds of failures.

  7. Just found link with another uncredentialed guy who seems to make sense but he also has lots of good pictures that illustrate my points. https://www.metabunk.org/oroville-dam-spillway-failure.t8381/

  8. Last comment. Looks like this is the design flaw that cause the main spillway to fail. Lack of aeration devices to prevent cavitation damage associated with high speed water flows. http://staff.civil.uq.edu.au/h.chanson/aer_dev.html

  9. Jim R

    Good information, thanks for the links.

    The news stories all talk about “using the emergency spillway”, like the engineers have any control of it. It’s just a smaller dam on the side, with a lower top and a much higher bottom. If the water gets too high, it runs over the top of that, and not over the main dam, which is not in any danger here.

    Still they are evacuating, because if the emergency spillway is completely washed out it will release about 30 feet worth of water from the lake, more than enough to drown the low-lying towns in the floodplain below.

    The main dam, the lake itself, and the power station will all be fine (provided they don’t have the ‘big one’ earthquake), since they are separated by bedrock and are away from the spillway and the emergency spillway. It’s unfortunate that they had to shut down the power station, though, because that would have been another way to drain some excess water away from the lake.

    It looks like there was an inspection in 2013, and they found some little potholes in the spillway which were never repaired. Now, about half of the length of the spillway is simply gone, and it’s wild white water crashing through a canyon in the bedrock. But again, it’s away from the main dam so although the damage is significant, it will be limited to the spillway. They’ll need to repair it in the next dry season though.

  10. emsnews

    None of the dam IS ‘bedrock’. It was put on top of ‘bedrock’. I do a LOT of backhoe work and know dirt really good and have built on mountainsides and water control is a huge issue for my work.

    ANYTHING popped on top of bedrock can wash away. Period. Overtopped dams can be saturated below and that can give way before the overtop happens.

  11. Jim R

    There is bedrock IN BETWEEN the spillways and the big pile of dirt that is the dam. The big pile of dirt has some largish slabs of concrete inside it, but of course it couldn’t withstand this kind of torrent.

    Worth noting, there is a wide range of stuff known as ‘bedrock’. It may be extremely hard granite or basalt. Or it can be a more friable schist. Or it may consist of a significantly softer limestone formation. And if your bedrock is a salt deposit, of course it can DISSOLVE.

    All that said, I’m willing to predict that absent a Mag 9 earthquake, that big pile of dirt will still be there at the end of this rainy season. On the other hand, the spillway may be an open cataract. Both spillways may be.

  12. V. Payne

    Looks like the emergency safety flow area near the “recreational parking lot” could saturate and just slide down the hill concrete and all.
    There was no channel to direct the flow of the water away from the base of this side of the dam…as one State official said because at he time of the building it was considered unnecessary. If this area is just dirt below the concrete lip it can liquefy and slide down the face of the hill and release the water to the level it stops flowing which will be the bottom of the lake unless there is solid rock beneath this area. Hopefully, the civil engineers and geos studied this in their design! It’s amazing that the weakness in the main overflow chute wasn’t spotted and sufficient repairs or construction on the chute completed. Wow! When was the last inspection of the main chute completed? And why was nothing done? The main chute looks like its too lightly constructed in the first place. The concrete is too thin and who knows about the quality of the rebar and concrete present . By the way the rebar rusts away after 20 years of damp exposure and has to be replaced. This is done by gradually reconstructing the chute periodically which I’ll bet hasn’t been done in Oroville’s maintenance schedule.

  13. emsnews

    The need to spend California money on millions of illegal aliens, just for example, dug a huge hole in the budget so they decided to let other things slide.

    My family lived in California since the Gold Rush. And I was one of the last to leave when I left in utter disgust and the stupid things people were doing in Berkeley.

    That state is insane because they don’t have harsh winters (except in the mountains, of course) so they ‘dumb down’ on the reality thing.

    But then, I live in a state that has NYC and I left there in disgust when I was unable to change the school system. It is set up to draw in the worst people on earth (super rich and super poor) who hate the middle class with a passion.

  14. Jim R

    @V Payne,

    “If this area is just dirt below the concrete lip it can liquefy and slide down the face of the hill and release the water to the level it stops flowing…”

    My understanding is that if the emergency spillway washes out, it will release about 30 feet of the lake before hitting bedrock. The flow is away from that big upside-down pyramid of dirt that is the main dam.

    But then, Elaine’s commenters have reminded me that California is a relatively recent piece of continent-building on the part of earth, and its bedrock is everywhere riven with fractures and joints where one block of rocks has been pushed into another block of rocks. Very interesting geologically, but full of cracks.

    One major shift in the science of geology has taken place in the last several decades — you know how they used to say the Grand Canyon required millions of years of erosion to gradually form?

    Now, they are saying that there were big hunks of ice, or big natural dirt piles, holding back huge lakes at the end of the last ice age. And a lot of the big canyons in the far west were formed when the natural dam melted or gave way, and only took a few days to form.

  15. JimmyJ

    Some photos of the crappy metamorphic bedrock crumbling away by the weir lip. The next forecast atmospheric river high rainfall event is coming right away.

  16. JimmyJ

    @Jim R: the Washington State Scablands, vast areas of deep erosion across 2000sq miles of central Wa state were created by multiple very short duration, but high volume outburst flood events from glacial Lake Missoula. Since that discovery theyve found even bigger features around the world.


  17. Jim R

    Looks like a splotch of new concrete there on the left side of the spillway image. Might last about a minute when they reopen the sluice gates.

    It’s going to be an interesting spring in Oroville. At least the locals have a chance to get out, unlike those historic disasters. Still, if the whole lake goes instead of merely the top 20-30 feet, the flood will go all the way to wherever this river dumps into the bay.

  18. emsnews

    Old saying, ‘You can’t plug a dam during a storm.’ Dams are one thing that you can only fix during fair weather.

  19. ziff

    emerg is over, they will repair when water drops .

  20. Jim R

    Rain has let up, and it looks like they can drain about 8ft of lake water a day but more rain is coming before all their spackle gets very far past the ‘soft pudding’ stage. Let’s just hope it doesn’t rain too much.

  21. flyingcuttlefish

    Reblogged this on flying cuttlefish picayune and commented:
    FEB. 13, 2017 post

  22. Pingback: Oroville Dam Disaster Is Inevitable Due To Poor Design, Ridiculous Planning And Disregard Of Geology | flying cuttlefish picayune

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