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Oroville: Some Much Needed Luck
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The Oroville Dam has gotten a run of near ideal weather, with only 0.16 inches of rain since February 22, and virtually no precipitation expected for the next week. (Although the warm, sunny weather will likely melt some snow.) They’re now running over 8k cubic feet of water per second through the powerplant (about 60% of its capacity), almost as much as is currently pouring into the reservoir due to the long dry spell.

The reservoir is a few inches below the 860 foot level that was designated as the point at which they’d turn back on the main spillway. But now they’ve decided to let the lake rise to 865 feet (36′ below the dangerous Emergency Spillway overflows) before restarting the main spillway, which might allow them to continue dredging the river at the foot of the spillway thru the end of the next work week before they’d have to clear away the heavy equipment and unleash the spillway torrent again.

Hopefully they’ll dredge enough debris out of the riverbed next week to run the powerplant at full capacity, because the powerplant method of draining the reservoir doesn’t cause problems (knock on wood). Whereas the harder they have to run the main spillway, the more debris winds up in the riverbed, forming another impromptu dam that shuts down the powerplant. (The Sisyphus Syndrome.)

Here’s what happens to the river when they run the broken main spillway at two-thirds of rated capacity:

They’re also trying to harden some parts of the exposed mountain side where the broken main spillway has been eroding down into the river.

They’re still highly vulnerable to a major pineapple express warm rainstorm dumping a lot of rain and melting asnow, but without some major bad luck on the weather front, the path for getting out of this winter now looks pretty doable.

No plans have been announced yet for a long term fix for the broken spillway.

 
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  1. That damn ain’t gonna’ give way or give up . It’s over . We don’t need you to tell us that it’s not snowing .

  2. Except that most of the main spillway is now gone…

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    @Jacobite

    Thanks.

    , @ic1000
    @Jacobite

    Link doesn't seem to work. Some recent photos here:
    March 8, Mercury News

  3. anon • Disclaimer says:

    Hope they have some way to fix the turbines if the bearings give out. Given that we have seen the entire concept as fragile, those are just another catastrophe waiting to happen. On the other hand, they are an ‘off the shelf’ item from GE, who has been making them since Edison stole electricity from Tesla.

    I realize you have snow melt, but dry weather in California seems like it isn’t exactly a long shot. The real long shot is that the whole system lasted as long as it did.

    • Replies: @Buffalo Joe
    @anon

    anon, when I worked in heavy rigging, turbines were frequently taken out of service and rebuilt as were the generators. I would think the generating equipment is well maintained.

    Replies: @Ivy

  4. @Jacobite
    Except that most of the main spillway is now gone...

    http://ww1.hdnux.com/photos/57/43/15/12464972/5/1024x1024.jpg

    Replies: @Steve Sailer, @ic1000

    Thanks.

  5. Given that the ’emergency spillway’ has been found to be ‘unfit for purpose’ all they’ve got is the main spillway and its busted! There is no reason next winter could not be as severe as this winter so until a solution is found they really need to de-rate that reservoir way below 900 feet.

    Between Oroville Dam and San Francisco’s Millenium Tower California has two major public safety problems to fix and fix fast.

  6. Millennium Tower … the ball bearings roll even faster across the floor this week …

  7. I’d love to see a Sailer take on the Millennium Tower.

  8. That spillway is so huge. To fix it before next October is going to be impressive. I wonder if any diversity lawyers are going to be hounding the effort to make sure that everybody gets their “fair” share.

  9. I don’t see operational barges in the photo, or circulating trucks moving material.

    I wonder if they could use a hydraulic mining dredge to just move the material downstream a distance.

  10. Anonymous [AKA "McD"] says:

    Everytime Steve posted a picture of the main spillway I got an uneasy feeling. Flip this most recent pic upside down and I now know why, what with the gaping hole in the side of the huge long skinny cement structure and the billowing grey substance rising above it.

  11. @Jacobite
    Except that most of the main spillway is now gone...

    http://ww1.hdnux.com/photos/57/43/15/12464972/5/1024x1024.jpg

    Replies: @Steve Sailer, @ic1000

    Link doesn’t seem to work. Some recent photos here:
    March 8, Mercury News

  12. @anon
    Hope they have some way to fix the turbines if the bearings give out. Given that we have seen the entire concept as fragile, those are just another catastrophe waiting to happen. On the other hand, they are an 'off the shelf' item from GE, who has been making them since Edison stole electricity from Tesla.

    I realize you have snow melt, but dry weather in California seems like it isn't exactly a long shot. The real long shot is that the whole system lasted as long as it did.

    Replies: @Buffalo Joe

    anon, when I worked in heavy rigging, turbines were frequently taken out of service and rebuilt as were the generators. I would think the generating equipment is well maintained.

    • Replies: @Ivy
    @Buffalo Joe

    Dam powerhouses are typically designed with overhead cranes that allow pulling out generator components for maintenance. They last a long time, but not forever, so periodic maintenance and capital additions are budgeted.

  13. @Buffalo Joe
    @anon

    anon, when I worked in heavy rigging, turbines were frequently taken out of service and rebuilt as were the generators. I would think the generating equipment is well maintained.

    Replies: @Ivy

    Dam powerhouses are typically designed with overhead cranes that allow pulling out generator components for maintenance. They last a long time, but not forever, so periodic maintenance and capital additions are budgeted.

  14. Not a geologist here but the way it looks in that excellent picture is that there is a significant amount of bedrock left that the new spillway can be built upon. All the soil was washed away. There is also a lot of rock that at the bottom that did not go down stream that can be used to make concrete and infill. Just make the cement on the spot and use conveyor belts to move up the material.

  15. They need to fly in Albert Hammond.

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