America’s Dam Crisis: Was Oroville Just a Drop in the Bucket? - Mountain Buzz
 

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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #1
 
Andy H.'s Avatar
 
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America’s Dam Crisis: Was Oroville Just a Drop in the Bucket?

Good analysis on dams from Columbia University's Earth Institute here:

America’s Dam Crisis: Was Oroville Just a Drop in the Bucket?

From the article:
Quote:
Outdated Assumptions, Confused Issues

Part of the problem, Lall says, is that the design specifications that were used to build dams decades ago could be out of date. “Let’s say those dams were designed for a 100-year event. That estimate of a 100-year event was typically based on 20 or 30 years of data, maximum. So if that data represented a dry period, that 100-year number could be more like a 10-year event. When you start subjecting these aging dams to climate variability, just like with Oroville, they’ll start failing.”
-AH

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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #2
 
Lakewood, Colorado
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Hi Andy,

To clarify, hydrologic frequency estimates on a short timescale weren't the controlling factor at oroville, the spillway integrity was driving the bus. Further down in the same article describes this:

Michelle Ho, a post-doctoral research scientist at the Columbia Water Center, agrees. “There were a lot of things written about how storms like this will increase in the future. I haven’t got a problem with that assessment. But the truth is that the storm that came in to fill up Lake Oroville last February wasn’t actually that big. If the spillway had been working properly, there would have been no issue with the reservoir reaching the level it did. It wouldn’t have made the news at all, if that spillway were in an adequate condition.”

-Sean

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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #3
 
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Sean,

I know that's the case with Oroville, and apologize that I should have been more clear. Oroville's failure was due to the spillway construction design and possibly, substandard materials used. The bigger point is that there are lots of dams out there designed with a data record of 20 - 30 years in a pre-climate change environment from which the 100, 500, or 1000 year recurrence interval events for which the dams were designed were based. In the era of climate change the recurrence interval floods may be substantially underestimated. This is in a addition to the fact much of that infrastructure is aging and may be worn out.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #4
 
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Speaking of Dams....

Interesting read and thanks for sharing! Seems like a legitimate problem and concern; one might expect to see more and more of this type of concern and seasonal hand wringing over dams that are sorely under-designed and probably not built to handle Earth's new found fury with climate changing so quickly around us, seems like a lot of various infrastructure like dams and bridges need a closer look, the 100-year storm design criteria could also use a re-do as nowadays none of that seems to apply; you construct something expecting it to withstand and then it doesn't should be a huge wake up call to look at revising some of that criteria for today's specs. In the meantime, here's this interesting clip:

Nevada legislature takes serious look at tearing down Lake Powell’s Glen Canyon Dam | fox13now.com
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #5
 
Bayfield, Colorado
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How many spillways nationwide do you think were designed to deal with the monster that is cavitation. I'll bet that's a big fat zero. Oroville certainly wasn't. Glen Canyon wasn't. Are any??? All it takes is a major flow in a flat spillway and the shit begins to hit the fan. Does it take a major runoff or rain event to make it happen? You bet it does. How long did it take for the Oroville spillway to begin to fail? I dont know exactly but not very long, a couple of days maybe three at most. Scary stuff. We need a hydraulic engineer familiar with the phenomenon to chime in but that's not very likely.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #6
 
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It wasn't even the main spillway that was the danger at Oroville.
It was the totally inadequate emergency spillway that was the problem. Anybody could see it was prone to eroding it's foundation, an astounding engineering failure.
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