Oroville Dam: Five workers fired for posting photos to social media

Damaged spillway at the Oroville Dam. (Facebook)

Damaged spillway at the Oroville Dam. (Facebook)
Damaged spillway at the Oroville Dam. (Facebook)

Things are going from bad to worse at California’s battered Oroville Dam. As if the severely damaged spillway wasn’t enough of a danger, the Sacramento Bee is reporting that authorities are pumping out 60,000 cubic feet of water per second (cfs).

Unfortunately, the inflow of water due to the deluge of rain into the Oroville Lake just spiked at roughly 91,000 cfs. And things in the near future don’t look much better.

Citing a meteorological event known as an “atmospheric river” (AR), Pacific Standard Magazine is citing that one of those very same weather scenarios is headed straight for the mountains of Central California.

According to the American Meteorological Society, an atmospheric river is typically thousands of miles long, while a mere few hundreds of yards wide. A single AR is capable of carrying a greater flux of water than the Amazon River, the largest river on the planet.

Acting much like a baseball field backstop, the tons of water that constitute an AR will slam into the Sierras, then the very same water will flow back towards the coast, but instead of making it to the Pacific, the wet stuff will fill the hundreds of already swollen dams and reservoirs much like the Oroville Dam.

As also reported by Pacific Standard Magazine;

Heavy rains will continue on Tuesday, at which point serious problems could begin to emerge. The fragile Oroville Dam will again be tested, but dozens of other dams — like the one at Don Pedro Reservoir near Modesto — are also nearing capacity statewide and planning emergency contingencies.

By late Tuesday, the San Joaquin River — the main hydrologic thoroughfare of the vast Central Valley — is expected to exceed a level not seen since 1997, and then keep rising the rest of the week. The river is already in “danger” stage — the stage above flood stage when critical levees could begin to become compromised.

But here’s where things start to get a bit strange.

While the State of California is soothing frayed nerves by telling the world (cited above by the Sac Bee) that the water level at the Oroville Lake may be at 850 feet, all is well. After all, the Oroville Dam tops out at 900 feet.

Yet just a few short days ago the Los Angeles Times reported that “the Federal Aviation Administration has issued a temporary ban on flights around the Oroville Dam to allow emergency aircraft to operate safely.”

With both aircraft and drones banned until May 17, the government is claiming the ban is necessary due to work crews continuing “to conduct aerial surveys of the erosion on the emergency spillway.”

Speaking of erosion on the emergency spillway, San Francisco’s KRON published a rather terse report that five contract workers at the dam have been fired for posting unauthorized photos of the virtually destroyed spillway on social media;

Five Oroville Dam workers have been fired for violating a contract by putting pictures of the dam on social media.

The Department of Water Resources hires a contractor to work on the dam. The contractor hired was Syblon Reid.

This contractor has a strict “No social media, no photos policy” at every site they work on.

Some of the employees did not abide by their contract and posted pictures of the Oroville Dam emergency spillway online which is why five people were released.

As far as the state government is concerned, The Atlantic magazine reports that the maintenance and inspection records of the dam are spotty at best, Third World-ish at worst.

Provided the dam doesn’t burst, thusly threatening the lives of up to 200,000 Californians,  the cost of repairs is estimated at between $100 million to $200 million. Once it’s dry enough to begin work, that is.

In the meantime, Gov. Jerry Brown has pumped $64 billion in a high speed rail system that opponents have dubbed a boondoggle that is in reality “the train to nowhere.”

The California State Senate has also passed a slew of bills sent to the governor for signature that would place the California taxpayers on the hook to protect the estimated 2.4 million illegal aliens residing in the Golden State.

 

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