Sunday, February 12, 2017

Interview With Joe Countryman

No good news at Oroville Dam:
The Bee: If the top ​of the emergency spillway ​goes, is that basically dam failure?

Countryman: It’s not going to be the (main) embankment failure, but it’s a failure. If it does happen, there’s nothing saying that the ground is going to stay where it is. That force of water will start tearing that hill apart​,​ and it could eat back into the reservoir and drain the reservoir.

The Bee: If that happens​,​ is it a “who knows what will happen?” situation?

Countryman: Yeah, it’s speculation, but most of the speculation would be it’s not good. It will be a helluva mess downstream. I think they’re taking the right action. I think between now and Thursday​,​ when the next storm arrives, they need to get the reservoir down as low as they can. Tomorrow, they need to start grouting the hell out of that embankment to try to shut off where that leak is.

The Department of Water Resources released a video shot by a drone over the Oroville Dam. Water is seen running over the emergency spillway as well as the main spillway.
Department of Water Resources

​The Bee: Say the top 30 feet of the emergency spillway does break off​,​ and it sends a pressure wave down the system​. That would raise concerns of levees failing in Oroville and other towns along the Feather River channel. ​Would it cause a big risk in Sacramento?

​Countryman: ​It’s hard to say​, because there is a lot of volume in the floodplain, but once the levee burst​​ most of that water is going to be leaving the river and spreading across the land. With the Yolo Bypass and everything​, my gut tell tells me that Sacramento probably doesn’t have major concern.

The Bee: But Marysville, Oroville, Live Oak​? The Highway 70 corridor?

Countryman: That’s gone. I’ll tell you right now that’s gone. If they lose that 30 feet that’s gone.

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