Dam report damning

Forensic team points to failures dating back to design and construction of Oroville Dam

Last week (Jan. 5), an independent investigative team released its forensic report of last February’s Oroville Dam spillway failure. It was, pun intended, quite damning. It calls the entire incident “textbook” as far as human error is concerned, pointing to issues dating back to the design and construction of the dam half a century ago and leading up to poor management and safety protocols today.

According to the report’s summary: “The Oroville Dam spillway incident was caused by a long-term systemic failure of the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), regulatory and general industry practices to recognize and address inherent spillway design and construction weaknesses, poor bedrock quality, and deteriorated service spillway chute conditions.”

What’s more, the report indicates that Oroville Dam is not alone: “Like many other large dam owners, DWR has been somewhat overconfident and complacent regarding the integrity of its civil infrastructure ….”