The Oroville Dam in Northern California may seem far removed from San Diego. But there are millions of reasons, most in gallon form, for locals to be keeping an eye on the ongoing battle to keep its emergency spillway from collapsing.
The dam, as the L.A. Times puts it, is the “linchpin” of the statewide water system that brings water from the Sierra Nevada mountains to Southern California. Its fate affects our water supply.
And that’s not all. As California’s little-known second-deadliest disaster and our own grim local history reveals, the reliability of dams is crucial to our own personal safety.
Here are questions and answers about the Oroville Dam crisis.
What’s going on up there?
The Oroville Dam, the tallest dam in the nation, keeps water in the Lake Oroville, the largest reservoir in the so-called State Water Project, “the system of reservoirs and canals that supplies nearly a third of Southern California’s drinking water,” KPCC reports.
As the Sacramento Bee explains, “the engineering crisis facing Oroville Dam — and repeated swings in strategy — started last week, when Department of Water Resources engineers discovered a cavernous hole in the lower section of the dam’s main spillway following a series of strong storms.”