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California turns to dam's spillway for 1st time since crisis
Technology
Published in 3-4-2019
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OROVILLE, Calif. (AP) An epic winter of rain and snow has refilled California's reservoirs and pressed into service a spillway at the nation's tallest dam Tuesday, a $1 billion structure that drained excess water for the first time since it crumbled two years ago and drove hundreds of thousands to flee the threat of catastrophic flooding.

Water flowed down the spillway and into the Feather River as storms this week and melting snowpack are expected to swell the lake behind Oroville Dam in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, said Molly White, principal engineer with the California Department of Water Resources.

The spring storms follow a winter that coated the mountains with thick snowpack, which state experts measured Tuesday to determine the outlook for California's water supplies. It was 162% of average after heavy winter rain and snow left the state drought-free for the first time since December 2011.

"We're going from flood to drought and drought to flood with very little normal in between," said Kris Tjernell, deputy director of the water resources department.

The measurement on a snowy day at Phillips Station near Lake Tahoe found a snow depth of 106.5 inches (287 centimeters) and a snow water equivalent of 51 inches (129.5 centimeters), which is the depth of water that theoretically would result if the entire snowpack melted instantaneously.

Just four years ago, then-Gov. Jerry Brown found a field at Phillips Station barren of any measureable snow amid a historic drought.

With the increased rain and a snowpack not seen in years, water managers are beginning to discuss how best to manage and operate reservoirs, said John Paasch, chief of the department's hydrology and flood office.

"It's been a great winter, but it's not all fun and games," he said.

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Reference: www.chron.com