Oroville Dam Spillway: Can It Be Fixed?

On Friday, February 10th, I went to photograph the damaged spillway at the Oroville Reservoir. Authorities had blocked the road, but I talked my way past the closure as a photojournalist.

Once on site, I managed to get these few shots from the top of the dam.  At the north end of the dam was the emergency headquarters. Workers in hardhats and worried faces were everywhere. I could see helicopters flying back and forth with long lines dangling from them. I was told the helicopters were hauling away the electric lines disconnected from the PG&E power plant at the base of the dam. Bulldozers were removing trees from in front of the emergency spillway and huge trucks with rocks and concrete lined up to dump their cargo – I don’t know where.

Finally, a guard noticed me and told me to leave immediately.

In Oroville, the pounding, muddy water was threatening the salmon at the Fish Hatchery. I was told efforts were being made to move the fish so they wouldn’t suffocate from the mud and debris in the water. I hope they were successful.

The dam spillway as seen from above the damage.

The dam spillway as seen from above the damage.

 

Water from the damaged Spillway is as high as the trees.

Water from the dam pounds over the damaged spillway as high as the trees.

 

Dam pumps on Jan. 13th, 2014.

Dam pumps exposed during the drought on January 13th, 2014.

 

Dam pumps on Feb. 10th, 2017.

Now water covers the dam pumps on Friday, February 10th, 2017.

 

Muddy Feather River, just east of the fish hatchery.

Below the dam in Oroville, the muddied Feather River, threatens the fish hatchery.

 

Feather River floods the parking lot east of the fish hatchery.

In Oroville, the Feather River floods the parking lot just east of the fish hatchery.

 

Consequences: Trees Down, Creek Up

By Lin Jensen, photos by Karen Laslo

Music by Led Zepplin

Karen is often found afield with a camera in hand. Yet recent storms brought down more trees than she could possibly photograph. They lay strewn like fallen giants on the paths and roadways of Bidwell Park; they crushed the roofs of houses and thrust up great slabs of sidewalk. While Karen couldn’t record it all, she managed nonetheless to capture images enough to show the inexorable and sudden force of wind and rushing water.

There’s no point in arguing with the weather; you’ll find it totally indifferent to your wishes and preferences. The rain does not rain for our sakes nor cease for our sakes. Nor do trees germinate or grow or topple and die because of any concern for our wellbeing. Nature is its own life and force over which we have no control but can only endure and at best admire. But it is possible to tamper with mechanisms that influence the weather, which we humans have done and for which we are now reaping the consequences. In a series of storms such as those of these past days, we get a small sense of what nature is capable of, and a measure of how little recourse we have to ward off the very forces we have set in motion.

Look at these photographs with an eye of consequence, and know that these images are but a fraction of what might be in store for us. Natural forces are both wondrous and threatening. What Karen has shown through the lenses of her camera these past days, awakens us to a humility and reverence for the forces of nature, and turns us toward an essential harmonization with our native surroundings that constitutes our only true life on this planet.

An English Walnut Street Tree tumbled over barely missing 2 houses but pulled the sidewalk up about 3 feet.

An English Walnut Street Tree tumbled over barely missing 2 houses but pulled the sidewalk up about 3 feet.

 

This Valley Oak clipped the roof of 2 houses when it fell on 8th St. Valley Oaks don't like a lot of summertime irrigation.

This Valley Oak clipped the roof of 2 houses when it fell on 8th St. Valley Oaks don’t like a lot of summertime irrigation.

 

Fortunately, when this oak fell it didn't damage Sycamore Pool.

Fortunately, when this oak fell it didn’t damage Sycamore Pool.

 

Valley Oak near Caper Acres.

Valley Oak on the north side of Caper Acres.

 

Chico Creek over flows Sycamore Pool at One Mile, Bidwell Park.

Chico Creek over flows Sycamore Pool at One Mile, Bidwell Park.

 

Sycamore Pool.

Sycamore Pool.

 

One Mile/Sycamore Pool, looking east. Note the life guard stands and the pool ladders.

One Mile/Sycamore Pool, looking east. Note the life guard stands and the pool ladders.

 

Lower Bidwell Park next to the freeway.

Lower Bidwell Park next to the freeway.

 

Sandbags to keep the creek from flooding houses on the south side of Bidwell Park.

Sandbags to keep the creek from flooding houses on the south side of Chico Creek, lower Bidwell Park.

 

Manzanita Ave. bicycle tunnel.

Manzanita Ave. bicycle tunnel.

 

Five Mile Recreation and picnic area.

Five Mile Recreation and picnic area.

 

The flood gates at Five Mile. A large log washed down from up-stream bangs into the gates.

The flood gates at Five Mile. A large log washed down from up-stream bangs into the gates.

 

Chico Creek looking east as seen from the flood gate bridge.

Chico Creek looking east as seen from the flood gate levee at Five Mile, Bidwell Park.

 

Five Mile picnic area.

Five Mile picnic area.

 

Sacramento River as seen from River Rd. Note there isn't any bank visible.

Sacramento River as seen from River Rd. Note there isn’t any bank visible.

 

Sacramento River at the "Wash-out."

Sacramento River at the “Wash-out.”