Water levels at Oroville Dam less than 7 feet from the top

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Oroville Dam was built in the 1960's and at 770 feet tall, it is the highest dam in the country. The water flowing out of the hole quickly turned brown with mud as it consumed trees and soil before rejoining the main channel below in a massive confluence wave that sent up clouds of mist in the tree-lined canyon.

As of 4 a.m. Friday, Lake Oroville is at just over 893 feet, less than seven feet from the top.

State officials say water could pour over an emergency spillway at Lake Oroville for the first time ever, a last-ditch alternative that they had been hoping to avoid.

On Tuesday, officials began noticing large chunks of concrete missing from the dam's spillway.

"We're trying to determine if the spillway is not usable do we need to use an emergency spillway", Maggie Macias, a spokesperson for the DWR, said Thursday. Water release will resume at a rate deemed safe.

Original Post: Engineers at Lake Oroville are releasing water over the reservoir's quickly-eroding spillway in an effort to maintain flood control measures.

The spillway damage follows a series of storms to hit Northern California, producing rain and snow in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

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The California Department of Water Resources upped the outflows by way of the spillway to 55,000 cfs. They learned today that DWR is stepping up releases from Lake Oroville to keep it from reaching its maximum capacity.

"The integrity of the dam is not jeopardized in any way because the problem is with the spillway and not the dam", department spokesman Eric See said.

Scott McLean, a spokesman for Cal Fire, said the damaged main spillway was releasing water at 65,000 cubic feet per second, almost twice as much as Thursday.

The California Department of Water Resources says that the reservoir's emergency spillway likely will be used, perhaps, as soon as early Saturday. "The current forecasted total flow is not expected to exceed 75 cubic feet (2 cubic meters) per second, which is less than the flow in 2006 and half of the flow in 1997". He emphasized that dam is not in any way compromised.

California state engineers say the damage does not threaten communities downstream even as Lake Oroville continues to fill with water.

That topsoil has so muddied the waters downstream that salmon at a nearby fish hatchery are being moved by tanker trucks to another location.

"The loss of hatchery-produced salmon from Feather River Hatchery would be a major blow to salmon fishermen in California", McManus said, the Sacramento Bee reported. It's a ravine that has never been used for overflow since the dam was finished in 1968.

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