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Cost of Oroville Dam Repair Nearly Doubles

Monday, October 23, 2017

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Officials report that the cost of repairs on the Oroville Dam control spillway are likely to double, factoring in necessary design changes and additional work that had not been initially budgeted for.

Originally slated to cost $275 million—with the bid by Nebraska-based construction firm Kiewit—repairs are now weighing in close to $500 million, which is accounting for a higher level of protection needed for the dam’s spillway, noted The Sacramento Bee, along with unforeseen issues with bedrock underneath.

“When Kiewit put in the bid, only 30 percent of the project had been designed,” Erin Mellon, a spokesperson for the state Department of Water Resources, said. “When you get on the construction site, there’s a lot more information that you glean.”

Kelly M. Grow / California Department of Water Resources

Concrete erosion was first spotted on the spillway on Feb. 7; the flow of water from the dam was halted briefly, but had to be restarted to stave off a potential disaster, as heavy rains came faster than the dam’s auxiliary spillway could safely handle. The crater in the main spillway was later reported to be much larger.

Mellon told the Bee that the state is aiming to recoup up to 75 percent of reconstruction costs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

However, the water districts that store water behind the dam—Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the Santa Clara Valley Water District and the Kern County Water Agency—will be expected to cover the difference of what is not paid for by the government.

Oroville Dam Incident

Oroville Dam, about 70 miles north of Sacramento, is the tallest dam structure in the country, at 770 feet, and Lake Oroville, which the dam created, is the second-largest man-made lake in California. The dam was finished in 1968 after a construction period of more than 15 years.

Concrete erosion was first spotted on the spillway on Feb. 7; the flow of water from the dam was halted briefly, but had to be restarted to stave off a potential disaster, as heavy rains came faster than the dam’s auxiliary spillway could safely handle. The crater in the main spillway was later reported to be much larger.

The flooding over the emergency adjacent spillway resulted in the erosion of the unlined hillside. The resulting influx of water caused officials to order a 188,000-person evacuation.

Repair Problems

Jeff Petersen, project manager for Kiewet, told Mercury News that, once construction workers had gotten to the site, they discovered the bedrock was much deeper than originally anticipated, which meant more digging. In the end, this resulted in almost double the amount of concrete than the Department of Water Resources had originally planned.

Petersen added that such discoveries on these kinds of projects aren’t uncommon.

The repairs are still slated to hit the Nov. 1 deadline, which will enable the main spillway to handle up to 100,000 cubic feet of water per second this winter, noted Mercury News. This means that 41 percent of the main spillway will have concrete with modern rebar by that date.

“I don’t want to jinx it,” Petersen said, “but we’re five days ahead of schedule.”

Petersen went on to add that the new spillway will be much stronger, with many places with concrete between 5 and 13 feet thick. There will also be 612 concrete slabs connected to 14 steel plates attached to anchors drilled 20 feet and over into the bedrock.

   

Tagged categories: concrete; Government; Infrastructure; Locks and dams; NA; North America; Quality Control

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