Lake Oroville: Evacuation Order Lifted, Water Level Falling

The Oroville Dam spillway releases 100,000 cubic feet of water per second down the main spillway in Oroville, California on February 13, 2017.

The Oroville Dam spillway releases 100,000 cubic feet of water per second down the main spillway in Oroville, California on February 13, 2017. (JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)

The evacuation order affecting about 180,000 residents along the course of the Feather River below Oroville Dam has been reduced to a warning, allowing residents to go home and businesses to resume operations, the Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said Tuesday.

“Taking into account the current level of risk, the predicted strength of the next round of inclement weather and the capacity of the lake to accommodate increased inflow associated with those storms, we have concluded that it is safe to reduce the immediate evacuation order currently in place to an evacuation warning,” Honea said.

The inflow of water to the reservoir continues to drop as about 100,000 cubic feet of water per second is being released, said Bill Croyle, acting chief of the California Department of Water Resources.

“We’re continuing to make significant gains in removing water from the reservoir,” he said.

The goal is to get the level of the reservoir down to flood control storage, which is about 850 feet.

“The spillway has been stable for four days,” he said. “That’s important for today and in the coming days. … But really preparing also for the remainder of the wet season.”

The crisis at the dam began last Tuesday when officials detected a problem on the principal spillway and shut it down to investigate. Their investigations revealed a partial collapse and erosion, forcing them to slow releases and ultimately opt to use the emergency spillway – which had never been used since the dam began operating in 1968.

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