OROVILLE DISASTER: Is Governor Jerry Brown really that clueless?

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The Latest: Gov. Brown Says He Was Unaware of Flood Concerns

Gov. Jerry Brown says he wasn’t previously aware of a report that surfaced Monday indicating environmentalists raised concerns about the Oroville Dam emergency spillway in 2005.

 

A helicopter sits at a staging area behind bags of rocks near the Oroville Dam, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, in Oroville, Calif. Officials from the California Department of Water Resources were considering using helicopters to drop loads of rock on the eroded spillway at Lake Oroville. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

OROVILLE, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on problems with an emergency spillway at the nation’s tallest dam (all times local):

7 p.m.

Gov. Jerry Brown says he wasn’t previously aware of a report that surfaced Monday indicating environmentalists raised concerns about the Oroville Dam emergency spillway in 2005.

He says he’s glad he found out about the report and adds that it was not part of previous records he had seen.

The 2005 motion filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission shows three advocacy groups said using the emergency spillway on the tallest U.S. dam would cause significant erosion. The groups warned of a failure of the dam itself that would threaten lives and property.

State officials said in 2008 no “significant concerns” about the spillway’s integrity had been raised in any government or independent review.

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6:20 p.m.

Gov. Jerry Brown is asking the Trump administration for federal assistance in responding to a potential failure of a spillway at the Oroville Dam in Northern California.

In a letter to President Donald Trump released Monday, Brown asks for help for the three Northern California counties affected.

Brown says aid is needed to assist the 188,000 residents of Butte, Sutter and Yuba counties who were ordered to evacuate Sunday after concerns an emergency spillway could give way, unleashing a gush of water to downstream towns.

Brown has criticized Trump on many of his initiatives, but at a news conference Monday he lauded the president’s plan to invest $1 trillion on infrastructure.

The governor says California and Washington will work “in a constructive way” to repair failing infrastructure in the state.

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5:20 p.m.

A state school official says any school forced to close because of evacuations may be able to recover attendance funding, the main revenue source for local districts.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson says he has directed his staff to help affected school administrators to apply for waivers due to school closures.

Torlakson says schools in California should not suffer financially “for putting the safety of our students first based on these unprecedented flood dangers.”

Butte, Sutter and Yuba counties on Sunday ordered nearly 200,000 residents to evacuate.

In Butte County, where the Oroville Dam is located, 13 of 15 school districts were closed. The county has about 31,000 total public school students.

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5:05 p.m.

The California Department of Water Resources says helicopters are dropping loads of rock on a hole at the lip of Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway.

Workers are hoisting giant white bags filled with rocks and at least two helicopters flying them and releasing them in the spillway’s erosion. Dump trucks full of boulders also are on their way to dump their cargo on the damaged spillway.

The barrier at the nation’s tallest dam is being repaired a day after authorities ordered mass evacuations for everyone living below the lake out of concerns the spillway could fail and send a 30-foot wall of water roaring downstream.

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4:30 p.m.

California’s U.S. senators are calling on President Donald Trump to approve a disaster declaration for the state in response to damage from recent storms.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris wrote in a letter Monday that the situation is especially dire downriver from Oroville Dam, where damage has threatened flooding and forced nearly 200,000 people to evacuate.

The senators are asking the president to provide $162.3 million in disaster assistance that California requested.

The lake behind Oroville Dam swelled significantly with this winter’s rains and the collapse of its damaged spillway threatens to flood downstream communities.

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3:35 p.m.

A California dam threatened by a damaged emergency spillway has operated under temporary licenses for a decade.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission says a 50-year license for Oroville Dam, the nation’s tallest, expired in January 2007. Mary O’Driscoll told The Associated Press that the facility has been operating under an existing license that’s renewed each year.

The California Department of Water Resources, which operates the dam, applied for a new 50-year license in 2005.

O’Driscoll said the federal agency finally received all the necessary permits and other documents needed to decide on the new license last December.

Nearly 200,000 people have been ordered to leave their homes out of fear that a damaged spillway could collapse.

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2:45 p.m.

Gov. Jerry Brown has not announced immediate plans to visit Oroville or meet with residents who have been evacuated.

Brown spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman says the governor’s primary focus any time there is an emergency is always on the response itself, not photo ops that can pull resources away — or distract — from the task at hand. She said an emergency order was issued Sunday.

Meanwhile, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and emergency operation officials met with residents at an evacuation center in Woodland, California, about 80 miles south of the Oroville Dam.

Evacuations for at least 188,000 people living below the dam were ordered Sunday after officials warned the emergency spillway was in danger of failing and unleashing uncontrolled floodwaters on towns below.

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1:45 p.m.

Documents show environmentalists raised concerns years ago about the stability of the emergency spillway at the tallest U.S. dam but state officials dismissed them, insisting the structure was safe.

In a 2005 motion filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, three advocacy groups said using Lake Oroville’s earthen spillway would cause significant erosion because it wasn’t armored with concrete.

They said soil, rocks and debris could be swept into the Feather River, potentially damaging bridges and power plants. The groups warned of a failure of the dam itself, threatening lives and property.

Nearly three years later, state officials said no “significant concerns” about the spillway’s integrity had been raised in any government or independent review.

Bill Croyle, acting head of California’s Department of Water Resources, said Monday that he wasn’t familiar with the 2005 warnings.

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12:45 p.m.

The sheriff of a California county where thousands of people were evacuated as a damaged spillway on a huge dam threatened to fail says repairs may need to be made before residents are allowed to go home.

But Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea didn’t say how long the fixes could take and offered no timetable for lifting the evacuation order.

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12:40 p.m.

The acting head of California’s water agency says he’s “not sure anything went wrong” on a damaged spillway at the nation’s tallest dam.

The comments from acting Director Bill Croyle come after officials told residents for days that the damage was nothing to be concerned about but then told nearly 200,000 people late Sunday to get out in an hour.

The sheriff in a county where thousands of people have been evacuated also says he sees the move as a double success.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said public safety officials worked to evacuate people and the Department of Water Resources dealt with the situation at hand.

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12:30 p.m.

Water officials say storms expected later this week near communities evacuated over the threat of a spillway collapse at the nation’s tallest dam will be smaller than last week.

Bill Croyle, acting director of California Department of Water Resources, said more water is leaving Lake Oroville reservoir than coming in. But rain is forecast for Thursday.

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12:30 p.m.

The sheriff in a county where thousands of people have been evacuated over the threat of a spillway collapse at the nation’s tallest dam says he realizes it’s been a hardship on the community.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea says it was difficult to decide to ask people to leave their homes, and that their primary purpose is to ensure safety. They’re trying to figure out when people can go home.

Honea also said more than 500 Butte County jail inmates safely transferred to Alameda County Jail farther south.

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12:25 p.m.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea says the evacuation below the nation’s tallest dam because of the threat of flooding from a damaged spillway will not end right away. Officials said Monday that they are working on a plan to allow residents to return home when it’s safe.

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12:15 p.m.

Residents and local officials have described a panicked and chaotic scene on roads and freeways during an evacuation over the threat of a spillway collapse at the nation’s tallest dam.

Jodye Manley of Olivehurst says she and her husband were having dinner Sunday at her daughter’s house in Sacramento when she got word from a city councilman friend that her area would probably be evacuated.

She says the couple got gas and made a mad dash to get their four dogs and three cats. Manley says she and her neighbors were completely panicked and that the scene “was almost like a movie.”

She says the traffic-filled return to Sacramento was terrifying, with people thinking the spillway would go at any moment.

Chico Councilman Andrew Coolidge says the seven shelters he visited are packed with residents who describe similar terror on jam-packed roads to safety.

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11:45 a.m.

The chief executive of the Oroville Hospital says it is operating normally but that 100 patients have been moved to the hospital’s second floor.

Hospital CEO Robert Wentz says the hospital took the step Monday morning “out of an abundance of caution.”

The hospital is outside the flood zone below the dam on Oroville Lake and sits on a hill.

Wentz says evacuating acutely ill people is difficult so it is usually better for them to stay where they are.

He says patients will not go back to the hospital’s first floor until authorities tell the hospital it is safe to do so.

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7:20 a.m.

Kimberly and Patrick Cumings just moved to Oroville from Fresno with 3-year-old daughter Elizabeth a month ago because of a new job.

They were eating at a restaurant when the evacuation order happened and ended up in an evacuation shelter without their belongings.

A driver with a large vehicle and three children of her own gave them a ride to the Red Cross evacuation center at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico, where they stayed Sunday night.

They say they thought about waiting it out but decided against it.

They left all of their belongings at the hotel where they were staying. Kimberly Cumings says she’d rather be safe than sorry.

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6:10 a.m.

State officials are waiting for the light of dawn to inspect an erosion scar on the potentially hazardous emergency spillway at northern California’s Oroville Dam.

California Department of Water Resources Action Director Bill Croyle says officials in helicopters overflew the spillway Sunday night to visually inspect it.

Evacuations for at least 188,000 people living below the dam were ordered Sunday after officials warned the emergency spillway was in danger of failing and unleashing uncontrolled flood waters on towns below.

Water levels at the huge dam are continuing to drop and stopping water from spilling over the emergency spillway.

California Department of Water Resources officials say flows into the lake are just under 45,000 cubic feet per second. Outflows remain high at nearly 100,000 cubic feet per second.

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5:35 a.m.

Water levels at northern California’s Lake Oroville are continuing to drop and stopping water from spilling over a big dam’s potentially hazardous emergency spillway.

Evacuations for at least 188,000 people living below the dam were ordered Sunday after officials warned the emergency spillway was in danger of failing and unleashing uncontrolled flood waters on towns below.

California Department of Water Resources officials say flows into the lake are just under 45,000 cubic feet per second. Outflows remain high at nearly 100,000 cubic feet per second.

Officials ordered the evacuation because possible failure of the emergency spillway could send a 30-foot wall of water into communities.

State Fire and Rescue Chief Kim Zagaris says at least 250 California law enforcement officers are in the area of the dam and evacuation routes to manage the exodus of residents and ensure evacuated towns don’t face looting or other criminal activity.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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