DWR Refutes Online Story Claiming Oroville Dam Leaks Could Lead To Failure

May 3, 2017

No, the Oroville Dam is not about to collapse.

Officials are responding to a story making the rounds on social media purporting to show that the dam could fail at any time. 

The official retort? “The dam is sound.” That’s a summary of a brief statement from the Department of Water Resources, throwing proverbial cold water on a story dated April 25, and published on the website Catholic.org. The story claims that signs suggest that Oroville dam could fail at any moment.

Not so, says Lauren Bisnett, a spokeswoman for DWR who added that to her knowledge, the story’s writer did not contact the department.   

The crux of the article concerns the appearance of green vegetation on the dam’s earthen face. The story suggests that the vegetation is caused by water percolating through the dam’s core block. It describes the failure of a similar dam in Idaho in the 1970s where lush vegetation appearing on the dam’s face provided the first clues.

The DWR’s Bisnett responded that vegetation is nothing new. She said the phenomenon has been studied and linked to rainfall. Bisnett said greenery regularly appears in wet years, including 2006, 1997 and 1983.

The piece, which cites federal inspections says parts of the dam are settling at different rates, which could be a concern.

The story’s author could not be reached by press time.