Dam Trouble


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Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
May 14, 2017 - 07:30am PT
America’s tallest dam was built from earth, stone and concrete – and the towering ambition of Gov. Pat Brown.

Sixty years before a crisis at Oroville Dam sent thousands fleeing for their lives in February, the late governor brought an almost evangelical zeal to erecting the structure that would hold back the Feather River to deliver water to the parched southern half of the state.

Determined to leave a personal legacy, Brown misled voters about the State Water Project’s costs, ignored recommendations to delay Oroville’s construction and brushed aside allegations that substandard building materials were being used at the dam. His administration steamrolled past a land-speculation scandal, relentless labor strife and the deaths of 34 workers to get Oroville built on time.

“I didn’t want anything to stop the California Water Project,” Brown said years later, using an earlier name for the project.

As the linchpin of the state’s water delivery network, capable of holding 3.5 million acre-feet of water, Lake Oroville has played a critical role in California’s meteoric economic and population growth since its completion in 1968.

But now Pat Brown’s son, current Gov. Jerry Brown, finds himself cleaning up a mess that engineering experts believe was caused at least in part by design and construction problems from his father’s day.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/water-and-drought/article150278687.html#emlnl=Morning_Newsletter#storylink=cpy
Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
May 14, 2017 - 07:36am PT
“We didn’t know exactly the cost of the project. We hadn’t priced it out to any exactitude,” Brown said in the Berkeley interview.

Besides, the governor believed cost didn’t really matter given what was at stake.

You need water. Whatever it costs, you have to have it,” he said.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/water-and-drought/article150278687.html#emlnl=Morning_Newsletter#storylink=cpy


Trad climber
Leading Edge of North American Plate
May 15, 2017 - 09:16am PT
Note these are Preliminary Findings not Conclusions

At this time, the Forensic Investigation Team does not believe that it is likely that there are singular physical causes of the spillway damages, but rather that the damages were the results of some combination of physical factors from the lists below. However, based on what is known at this time, it would be prudent that the design of repairs consider all of the physical factors listed below.

Preliminary Findings Concerning Candidate Physical Factors Potentially Contributing to Damage of the Service and Emergency Spillways at Oroville Dam

May 5, 2017 Memorandum from Oroville Dam Spillway Incident Forensic Investigation Team

Candidate physical factors potentially contributing to service spillway damage:
1. Thinning of the chute slab above herringbone drains; these locations can promote cracking.
2. Large variations in slab thickness.
3. Limited slab reinforcement consisting of one layer of light reinforcement in the top of the slab.
4. Lack of continuous tension reinforcement across slab joints.
5. Corrosion and failure of reinforcing bars across cracks.
6. Slab joints with insufficient keys or lack of keys.
7. Slab placement sizes which were too large to control cracking.
8. Lack of waterstops in slab joints.
9. Hydraulic pressures and flows transmitted beneath the slab sections through open cracks and joints.
10. Increase in spillway discharge shortly before slab failure.
11. Plugging or collapse of drains or collector pipes, including potential plugging by tree roots.
12. Flow into the foundation that exceeded the capacity of the drain pipes, including possible flows from areas adjacent to the chute.
13. Lack of redundancy in collector drains.
14. Unfiltered drains; the gravel envelope may not serve as a filter.
15. Herringbone drains crossing joints in the slab.
16. Weathered rock and completely weathered rock that is soil-like material as slab foundation, without appropriate modification of the chute slab design, resulting in potentially erodible material beneath the slab and lack of foundation bond with concrete; the weathered rock and completely weathered rock appears to be associated with geologic features such as shear zones, and the degree of weathering changes relatively rapidly between some areas of the chute slab.
17. Less rigorous foundation preparation, resulting in lack of foundation bond with concrete.
18. Extended drought impacts on foundation materials.
19. Insufficient anchorage, due to limited anchor development in the concrete, short anchor length, inadequate grouting or grout strength, and/or installation in weak foundation material.
20. Relatively high spillway flow velocities in the lower chute for higher spillway discharges.
21. Lack of durability and effectiveness of slab repairs.
22. Spalling and/or delamination of concrete at slab joints.
23. Groundwater pressures; although current evidence suggests this may not have been a significant factor.
24. Cavitation; although preliminary analysis suggests this may not be a significant factor.

Candidate physical factors potentially contributing to emergency spillway damage:
1. Significant depth of erodible rock and soil in orientations that allowed rapid headcutting toward the crest control structure; these materials also appear to be associated with geologic features such as shear zones.
2. Hillside topography that concentrated flows and increased erosive forces, facilitating headcut formation.
3. Insufficient energy dissipation at base of the spillway crest.
4. Absence of erosion protection downstream of the crest structure.

It is important to understand that not all of the factors listed above may eventually be judged to have significantly contributed to the actual damages to the spillways, after all facts and as-constructed conditions are collected and fully evaluated. However, these factors should be considered and addressed in the ongoing new design and construction.
Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
May 15, 2017 - 09:26am PT
After decades of shattered expectations at Lake Oroville, can residents trust state?


There was going to be a steam train – and a monorail. Plus a major resort featuring a 250-seat restaurant and a 1,000-seat amphitheater. As many as 5 million visitors a year would show up.

When it came to wooing Butte County about the construction of Oroville Dam, state officials weren’t shy about setting grand expectations. In return for losing entire communities and thousands of acres of taxable land, the region would become home to California’s second-largest reservoir, Lake Oroville, and a tourist destination akin to Disneyland.

Then the state’s dam builders left, leaving behind a string of shattered expectations and half-kept promises. The train, monorail and amphitheater, spelled out in 1960s-era state documents, never got built; neither did the fancy restaurant. Oroville became another hardscrabble Gold Rush town.

The state’s inability to live up to its part of the bargain has long fostered resentment, frustration and cynicism about the California Department of Water Resources. February’s spillway failures at Oroville Dam, which forced thousands of residents to abandon their homes and jobs for two days, only made relations worse.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article150283882.html#emlnl=Morning_Newsletter#storylink=cpy


Trad climber
May 15, 2017 - 09:51am PT
The worst part of the "evacuation " was the response by local county supervisors. Of fifteen county supervisors in the affected tri county area, fourteen were awol till a week later, when ousted and disgraced con woman Barbara LeVake showed up at emergency services with a camera crew from fox news. She claimed to be in charge, despite having been voted OUT. You could see the official county people trying desperately to get her OUT OF THE WAY. Her political foto op was a huge insult to the hardworking honest people who were trying to do their jobs. Only Butte supervisor Nieto was present at the Office of Emergency services during the evacuation. He was the one who answered the phone when I called. The politicians were all so scared of making a decision what to do for fear of criticism, that they did nothing. Yuba and Sutter Offices of Emergency Services websites still had drought warnings on their pages three days after the evacuation. There was no information about the dam on any county pages. When I spoke to Yuba and Sutter sherriffs and CHP they had no info. Elderly people and carless folks were left to pray or drown while fleets of yuba sutter transit busses sat parked in the yard. The national guard showed up three days late. Highway 70 should have had all four lanes in both directions converted to South bound to accomadate traffic. According to the local tow company, over 1000 car accidents occurred with nearly half of those cars submerged in water after panicked motorists went off the highway to skirt traffic. The evacuation was an unnecessary panick for many downstream. Our East Nicolaus fire dept said if the whole thing broke, we had ten hours before water would get here and that it would rise inches at a time. But facebook users said that a 100 foot wall of water was coming in thirty minutes. Local Authorities did NOTHING to squelch that rumor. Instead, they had firetrucks driving around telling people to evacuate immediately. Traffic was directed onto highway 70, when surface roads to the East, leading to highground were EMPTY! All those $125,000 a year internet govt employees couldnt even be bothered to update the counties web page. They dont really do any work. Their websites were showing months old crap. I doubt these guys even come to work. They get paid a fortune and do nothing. I spent the night of the evacuation convincing neighbors not to join the mess on Hwy 70. We scoped out two overpasses with no on/offramps for high ground and put plugs in our boats. I directed panicked motorists to surface roads leading East to high ground most of the night. The real threat to safety was the levees which were seeping badly all the way to Sacramento. Meanwhile the local reclaimation district was hiring levee monitors. But as it turns out, they gave all those paid jobs to their families, friends and cronies. Many got paid for doing nothing. The whole incident shines a bright light on how IRRESPONSIBLE our State and local governments have become. Its time to dump all the political correctos out of California and insert hardworking honest people who are NOT on some stupid idealistic crusade. Their current agenda does not look so noble when the cost is factored in. And all the gas tax money will be wasted on worthless shyt while they argue about how to cut costs for infrastructure etc. Im moving to Nevada.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
May 15, 2017 - 09:57am PT

May 15, 2017 - 09:57am PT
LOL ... I love chainsaw .....
Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
May 15, 2017 - 10:37am PT
Chainsaw's post certainly reflects some of what I saw and heard.


Trad climber
Monrovia, California
May 15, 2017 - 11:28am PT
“We didn’t know exactly the cost of the project. We hadn’t priced it out to any exactitude,” Gov. Pat Brown.

the governor believed cost didn’t really matter given what was at stake.

It would seem that kind of thinking runs in the family.
Jon Beck

Trad climber
May 15, 2017 - 03:34pm PT
Jerry (Brown, not Garcia) got the state through a two billion dollar deficit. Of course he might have screwed the pooch on the bullet train.
Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
May 15, 2017 - 04:08pm PT
I like Governor Jerry Brown. But I think it safe to assume that father and son cared / care equally about the local concerns of Butte County citizens, then and now. I also am pretty damned sure neither Brown is or was concerned with the long term ecological consequences of their Big Signature Water Projects. Never mind bullet train (to nowhere, a fool's gambit voted by people who've no intention of ever riding it). Keep your eye on the Twin Tunnels SoCal Water Theft Project.

Governor Brown objects to familial political implications, so its ironic he's trying so hard to fix his father's broken legacy. Oroville is a part of that legacy and a thorn in Jerry's future reputation as it is for his family name.

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
May 30, 2017 - 11:41am PT
From the Wiki page on Isabella dam (along with a lot of other Corps of Engineers double-talk):

"November 9, 2007, the Corps of Engineers released the Isabella Dam Consensus Report, that confirmed the high-risk classification of the dam, ranking Isabella Dam among the 6 highest risk and highest priority dams in America, and later elevated it to the highest priority."

In the following 10 years no repair efforts have been made:

"A number of procedural tasks must still be completed in preparation of physical construction, which is scheduled to begin in 2017." So if I read it correctly, Isabella Dam is the highest risk dam in America.

There are signs around the towns of Isabella and Bodfish alerting folks that a two minute blast on the siren indicates imminent dam failure. Other signs point the way to high ground.

The other day I drove up the Kern Canyon from Bakersfield, then on up past Kernville. The river below the Isabella Dam is raging. The reservoir is fuller than I've seen it in a long time. The South Fork of the Kern was running across the bridge where Sierra Way crosses it between Kernville and CA 178. The main river above the lake is high enough to impress the locals, but not like it is below. So, I draw the conclusion that they're letting water out as fast as they can. I think there's still a lot of snow to melt up in the high country behind Mt. Whitney where the Kern originates?

Hopefully, for the city of Bakersfield's sake, this situation is under control. To a layperson like myself it looks pretty dicey.


Social climber
carmel, ca
May 30, 2017 - 01:44pm PT
^^^ there are unbelievable amounts of snow still up there. See this thread for Tioga Pass. Some cool aerial photos near the end:


I realize its to the North, but the photos I saw of folks on the Haute Route ski trip a month ago had HUGE amounts of snow still.

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
May 30, 2017 - 02:07pm PT
The sources of the Kern are the group of lakes between 11 and 12K ft. below the south side of Mt. Ericsson on the Kings Kern Divide. About 10 miles south of there it runs under the west side of Whitney.


Social climber
chica de chico, I don't claim to be a daisy.
Jun 9, 2017 - 07:09pm PT
Real sound on Facebook video..

same video stupid music for video.
Matt Sarad

Jun 10, 2017 - 07:27am PT
From the Bakersfield Californian:

This weekend the water level in Isabella Lake is expected to reach — and maybe even exceed — the restricted pool allowed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

And that means it might be time for residents who reside below the lake’s troubled dam to review their risks.

County emergency officials even recommend developing a plan for how to get out of town in the unlikely event that the dam fails due to something like a massive earthquake.

A dam failure could send a wall of water down the Kern River Canyon that would flood downtown Bakersfield under as much as 20 feet of water.

The whole city would be flooded.

Kern River Watermaster Dana Munn said so much water is being allowed out of the Isabella Lake dam that it’s causing damage to river banks and levees downstream.

At 5,400 cubic feet per second, it’s the highest flow in the lower Kern since 1983, he said.

Chevron has recently had to reinforce river banks and levees in the Kern River Oil Field, he said.

John Ryan, water resources superintendent for the City of Bakersfield, said the city had to bolster the riverbanks under the Westside Parkway bridge with slabs of broken concrete called rip-rap.

Homes along Goodmanville Road have had parts of their lawns flooded, though no structures have been damaged.

All up and down the river, there is erosion and damage, he said.

“We are managing it right now,” Ryan said. “If it went any higher, we would be having problems.”

There are no plans to increase the flow into the lower Kern River.

But even that high flow can’t keep up with the torrents that Mother Nature is pouring into Isabella Lake from the mountains around Mount Whitney.

Ryan said 6,452 cubic feet was roaring into the lake from the upper Kern River on Friday, down a bit from recent days but still a massive flow.

The bottom line, Ryan said, is that Isabella Lake is nearly as full as the engineers who maintain it are willing to let it get.

The magic number, set by the Army Corps of Engineers, is 361,250 acre-feet of water.

On Friday morning, Ryan said, the lake level was about 354,000 acre-feet and creeping upward.

It’s expected to peak on Sunday, he said.

Munn said the Corps has “kind of consented to let it go above” the restricted pool level.

Kern County Emergency Services Manager Georgianna Armstrong said the Corps has been asked if the restriction can be exceeded but has not yet replied.

Ryan said modeling shows the lake won’t get that full, at least not for too long.

But, he said, if you can predict where the lake level is going to end up, it might be time to take a shot at the Powerball jackpot.

The worry in having the lake so full comes from the fact it was identified in 2006 as one of the most dangerous dams in the nation.

An active earthquake fault runs along the spine of rock between the main and auxiliary dams.

And the Corps has recorded evidence of water damage that, if it remained under full pressure, could increase the risk of dam failure.

That’s why the restricted pool was put in place.

“What they have told us is that, at 66 percent of capacity, the dam meets current dam safety standards,” Armstrong said.

However, that limit has been exceeded once before with minimal impact, Ryan said.

In 2011, the last high water year, the water level increased to 368,000 for 10 days in July.

It wasn’t a problem, he said.

“I’m not a dam safety guy. But we didn’t really have a problem,” Ryan said.

The Isabella Lake dam is watched like a hawk, Armstrong said.

“The Isabella Dam is monitored in real time in Sacramento," she said. And the Corps of Engineers has people who walk the dam every day looking for signs that it has been compromised.

Any suspicious activity, leak, earth movement or other clue triggers a five-step system that could lead, if it escalates, to the evacuation of everyone in Bakersfield.

A dam failure, the Corps has said repeatedly, is very, very unlikely.

But the sheer number of human lives that would be in danger if the dam collapsed with a full pool of water behind it makes it a critical priority for repair.

And Armstrong said the scope of the destruction that would fall on Bakersfield if even the 361,250 acre-feet of water were released by a failing dam would be massive.

At a restricted pool, you have 20 feet of water in downtown Bakersfield. With a full pool, it's 30 feet.

Repair is coming.

The window for companies to bid on construction of the main improvements to the dam — increasing its height 16 feet and constructing a new spillway, as well as an option to improve the auxiliary dam — closed in May.

That work could begin as soon as this year.

In the meantime, there is a plan for evacuating people from Bakersfield in the event the dam begins to fail or, in the worst case, collapses in a seismic event.

At alert level 1, the county would be notified that there might be a concern.

At level 2, with additional signs of trouble, first responders, hospitals, schools and other critical agencies would be directed to begin activating their emergency plans.

At level 3, the general public would be alerted and, Armstrong said, some evacuations would likely begin.

At level 4, the likelihood of a dam failure would top 50 percent and a full evacuation of Bakersfield, Lake Isabella and the Kern River Canyon would be ordered.

The dam breaks at level 5 and the water begins its eight-hour run into northeast Bakersfield.

The county’s emergency plan for Isabella Lake — including maps of where the city would flood and how long it would take water to get to each part of town — is available at the Kern County Fire Department website at KernCountyFire.org; go to the "Operations" tab and click on on "Emergency Plans."

Residents, Armstrong said, should be ready for the worst.

Different parts of the city would be evacuated in different directions.

Families should talk and develop a plan for when to evacuate. They should, she said, arrange for a place to meet up if different family members have to flee in different directions.

“It’s not something to blow off. Water carries tremendous power. Just look at the river,” Armstrong said.

James Burger can be reached at 661‑395-7415. Follow him on Twitter: @KernQuirks.
Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
Oct 6, 2017 - 07:35am PT
Been a while since we got to talk about Oroville Dam and the top secret repairs going on there. Had a bird's eye view of the shenanigans on Tuesday just now got a chance to post it up. Check it out in this post-processed photo (makes the contrasts and colors stand out more, didn't quite look like this to my nekkid eye)

I have a few other angles but no time to mess with them now.


Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Oct 6, 2017 - 08:45am PT
Don't looked fixed to me. :-/
Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
Jan 10, 2018 - 05:23pm PT
This is the prime example of Department of Water Resources (DWR) malfeasance for their role in the failure of the Oroville Dam

An independent forensic team, in a wide-ranging critical report on the causes of the Oroville emergency, said last week that dam safety must become a higher priority at DWR.

Some justifiable fallout
Grant Davis resigned as DWR’s director barely seven months after taking over the embattled department, which has been heavily criticized following the near-catastrophe at the dam’s two flood-control spillways. Davis will go back to his old job as general manager of the Sonoma County Water Agency.

He resigned because he wouldn't play lapdog to entrenched DWR management and Governor Jerry Brown who is furiously trying to repair his father's terrible legacy of failed water policy and big ag projects.

Mark Cowin, who retired as DWR director in December 2016, said it appeared there was “a personality conflict between Grant and a number of people, including the governor. ... It was a bad fit to start with.”

Among other things, he said Davis sometimes was too aggressive about suggesting changes at DWR. “He got ahead of the curve,” Cowin said.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/water-and-drought/article194001014.html#storylink=cpy

You see when dam operators claimed their sole concern was the safety of those downstream of their defective dam?

California water officials have always insisted public safety was their only concern as they struggled with the crisis unfolding last February at Oroville Dam.

They lied.

The forensic team investigating what happened at Lake Oroville, however, has pinpointed another factor guiding the decisions made by the Department of Water Resources: the state’s desire to continue shipping water to faraway farms and cities that rely on deliveries from the reservoir.

DWR officials faced a difficult choice after a giant crater formed in Oroville Dam’s main flood-control spillway during a heavy rainstorm Feb. 7. Should they dump huge volumes of water over the badly damaged spillway, in order to keep reservoir levels low? Or should they minimize water releases over the spillway in order to limit the damage, even if that meant the lake would fill up and water might flow over the dam’s adjacent emergency spillway, which had never been used?

Ultimately DWR chose to limit the water releases over the main spillway – a decision that would trigger the chaotic two-day evacuation of 188,000 people.

They did this in an attempt to save summer time water for southern California and Big Ag customers. Then they tried to hide this fact.

One top official at DWR told the forensic investigators that losing the ability to deliver water “was deemed as potentially one of the biggest disasters in the history of California,” according to the investigators’ final report. The forensic team declined to identify the official.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/water-and-drought/article193827669.html#storylink=cpy

Sport climber
Yakima, WA
Jan 10, 2018 - 05:30pm PT
So how are the 'repairs' going? Did they finish?
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