Oroville Spillways Media Briefing 04-02-2019

Oroville Spillways Media Briefing 04-02-2019


– Ready to get started. Good morning everyone. I’m Erin Mellon. I’m the Director of Public Affairs at the California Department
of Water Resources. Thanks for joining us this morning. We’re here this morning
to give you an overview of DWR’s first use of the
Oroville main spillway since it was reconstructed
over the past two years. Later this morning, DWR
will open the radial gates at the top of the spillway, releasing flows for the first
time since May 19th, 2017 when we began reconstruction. I’d like to provide a quick overview about the reconstruction
work that has taken place over the last two years. Over the course of two construction
seasons in 2017 and 2018 DWR rebuilt the main spillway
to full functionality. The main spillway has been
ready to release flows to manage lake levels
since November 1st, 2018. After completion of
all concrete placement. Minor finishing work
on the site is ongoing but it has no impact to functionality. I’m going to introduce
Molly White with DWR to talk about operations. – Thank you, Erin. Good morning everyone. My name is Molly White. I’m chief of water operations
for the state water project and I’ll be giving you all an
overview of our operations. Thank you. As part of our normal operations, DWR is using the main spillway today to manage reservoir
levels in anticipations of storm and melting snowpack. 2019’s wet weather has
boosted reservoir levels around the state,
including here at Oroville. Operations are coordinated with the United States Army
Corps of Engineers flood manual. Currently, Oroville
Reservoir is at 854 feet. DWR anticipates additional
rainfall in the coming days. At 11 A.M. today, DWR
will begin making releases from the Oroville main spillway. By early afternoon, DWR
expects to be releasing about 8,300 cubic feet per second. 8,300 cubic feet per second. Spillway releases,
combined with the releases from Oroville facilities
and natural inflows will be approximately
20,000 cubic feet per second in total releases to the Feather River. DWR will adjust releases
to the Feather River and from the main spillway
as forecasts change. We may increase flows to the feather river up to 4,000 to 60,000
cubic feet per second later this week to manage
inflows from the storms. If we make that adjustment, spillway releases will be a
portion of those total flows. DWR also anticipates the
potential for continued releases to manage snow melt and lake
elevations through the spring. DWR will continue to update our partners, the public, and the media
as operations are adjusted. Now I’ll hand it over to
DWR’s State Water Project Deputy Director, Joel Ledesma
for a few additional words. – Thank you, Molly. Good morning everybody. Yeah I’m Joel Ledesma. J-O-E-L L-E-D-E-S-M-A. Good morning, I’m Joel
Ledesma, DWR Deputy Director for the State Water Project. Thank you for joining us this morning. As Erin and Molly have shared, the decision to use the
main spillway was the result of following the normal operations plan to help provide flood protection
to downstream communities. Public safety has driven all our decisions as we have rebuilt the Oroville spillway including reconstructing the main spillway in just two years. We have embraced collaboration with our state and federal regulators and independent experts to
make sure the best design and reconstruction. We rebuilt the Oroville spillways using the best available technology, and with modern designs, but
we’re not stopping there. We’re looking at all our DWR owned dams and flood control facilities and are continuing to invest and modernizing our infrastructure. We wanna thank our state
and federal partners for their assistance and I
would like to acknowledge our construction partner, Kiewit, Jeff Peterson who served
as the executive director, project director, and
is here today with us. Thank you Jeff. Most importantly, we wanna
thank the city of Oroville, Butte county, and all the surrounding and downstream communities
for their continued patience. We are committed to
continuing communication and partnership with
the local communities. And now I’ll pass it back to Erin. – Thanks Joel. So we’re going to take a
couple of questions right now. I’m going to repeat your question for the, we’re Facebook Living this
for the viewers online. And then I wanna make sure
that we have enough time, like Molly said, we’re going
to start spilling at 11. So I wanna make sure you
guys have enough time to get down to Oro Dam
Boulevard East to review. And actually before we take questions, I’m gonna give you a
couple of other updates. Like I said, Oro Dam
Boulevard East is open both to media and the public. We recommend people do drive slowly, especially since it’s raining. Assuming spillway releases do not exceed 30,000 cubic feet per second, that road will remain open to the public. If releases from the main spillway exceed 30,000 cubic feet per second, we will restrict access to
only credentialed media. Livestream cameras provided by state parks are being streamed right
now on Park’s website. And they will be showing today’s spill. We’ll also be updating DWR’s
YouTube and Pixel pages with video and photos regularly today. Like I said, we’ll take a
couple of questions now. We’ll also be available after the fact. Sorry, we’re actually
gonna start over here. – [Interviewer] What is the
target for the reservoir? Why the releases now? What are you hoping to get in anticipation of the flows that are coming in. Kind of give us a glimpse
into the operations manual. – So the question was,
“What target lake levels “does DWR have going into
the spring and summer?” and I’m going to pass it to
Molly White with operations. – This is part of our normal operations to manage the reservoir and right now we are releasing water to make room for that snowpack and inflows
for rainfall on the horizon. And we receive forecasts daily from the National Weather Service and Flood Management to
mitigate and moderate our elevation increases as we go through the spring and summer. – [Interviewer] Can you tell
us like what the numbers are? – At this point it’s difficult to say exactly what the numbers are without knowing where we are with the forecast and so forth. – Dale. – [Dale] So what’s your level
of confidence this morning that this project is gonna go off and everything’s gonna be fine? – So the question is, “What
is DWR’s confidence level “with the use of this spillway?” and I’m gonna hand it
over to Joel Ledesma. – Great question. We’re prepared. We’ve spent the last two years
restoring full functionality of the spillway. We’ve had industry experts designing and helping us construct. We’ve had our regulators as oversight, the federal government and the state. So we expect it to run as designed and we’re prepared. – Thanks Joel. I’m gonna go over here. Sorry KRCR. – [Interviewer] Yes, what
is the one area of concern that engineers will be
keeping a close eye on as the water is released? Is there a specific area that
you need to keep an eye on to be sure that things
are running properly? – So the question is,
“Is there a specific area “of the spillway that DWR
monitoring will be looking at?” and I’ll pass it back to
Joel to answer that question. – You know, like I said
before, we’re prepared. And we’ll be monitoring the
spillway just making sure it meets design performance,
but we expect it to work and we’re ready. – Right here. – [Interviewer] Two and a half years ago it could have been said
that you’re prepared and you’re ready. You’re looking at a much
larger rain pattern this year which continues into April. You’re also looking at a
snowpack that’s much bigger than the one you contended
with two years ago. It’s a little hard to
take completely seriously that you’re really prepared ’cause I think you don’t know yet. Do you really? – Well I’ll take a portion
of that and I’ll pass it on to Molly if she has more
to say about the snowpack. Right now the lake is about 50 feet below the emergency spillway weir, which provides about 758,000
acre feet of storage, so right now, we certainly
do calculate snowpack and we are aware of the snowpack that is going to melt off
and run into the reservoir. We’re actually up in Tahoe today
doing our April snow survey and that’s information that’s
informing these decisions and that is part of why we
are making the releases today. Do you have anything to add? – I can add one more. And just one more item
is that we do anticipate having increased releases
to the Feather River throughout spring as
we manage the snowmelt and any inclement weather
that comes through. – [Interviewer] With all due respects, you guys were confident two years ago and I don’t wanna harp on
this but you’re looking at much larger pattern of water and of snow and you know you just have to wonder if you really have this thing right because the experts were right before until it wasn’t right. – I’m not sure that there’s
a question in there. – [Interviewer] Well the
question is, are you really sure that this will do the job
because let’s face it, the DWR’s reputation is
somewhat sullied already. It’s probably gonna be
dashed away (unclear speech). – Well like Joel and Molly have said, we are prepared to use the spillway. We are using it based on
inflows from rain and storms, as well as snowpack. We are proceeding as
with normal operations and the spillway has been
reconstructed to modern design. So we are ready for this
storm and future weather that Mother Nature may
have in store for us. I’m sorry guys, I’m just
gonna stop you there. I’m sorry we’re actually doing
this in an organized manner. I’m gonna pass it to you, Bob. – [Bob] Follow up on Brian’s question, what’s the sweet spot for the lake levels that we’d wanna see the lake at as we’re looking to try
to adjust for the snowpack and the water that’s
coming in and for you, what are the other projects
that we’re working on and are there other spillway
construction projects underway in the state? – So the operations plan,
sorry the question was, “What is the sweet spot for
lake levels going into spring?” and also, “What other
projects are underway “across the state, as far
as modernization goes?” So I’ll start and I’ll kick it over to Joel and Molly to add. The operations plan gives
target lake levels throughout the spring and summer, the
lake could keep rising, but like Molly said, we are
likely to continue releases through either the spillway
or other facilities into the summer if we see
additional rain or inflows from snowpack melting. And as far as the other facilities, I’ll have Joel answer that. – Great question, so managing
the state water project and our aging infrastructure
is very important to the state water project and so we’re continuously looking at where we need to modernize and as far as the dams,
we’ve been doing inspections, deeper dive inspections
at all our facilities. And we’re gonna be prioritizing the work and we have a plan but I think today, we really wanna talk about
this spillway at Oroville. – [Interviewer] Can I ask
another question about that? – Yep, sure. – [Interviewer] If you had
to pick three of five things that make this spillway different
from the previous spillway that give you that confidence
that this is going to work, what are those modern construction designs that give better
– Do you want me to go? Or do you wanna take it? – [Interviewer] Whether
it be materials or design? – Go ahead and then I’ll — – I’ll give you a couple of stats and then I’ll pass it back to Joel. So the question was, “What
are some of the construction “methods or infrastructure
that makes this spillway “different or better from the one “that was built 50 years ago?” So obviously using 21st century engineering designs and practices, we’ve learned a lot in the industry and in construction over
the past 50 or 60 years. This spillway has an average thickness of seven and a half feet of concrete. It has 7,000 anchors. It has 12 and a half million
pounds of reinforcing steel. They are epoxy coated. Those are some of the details that are new to this spillway. As far as future, as far
as additional questions as to the design of the spillway, after this press conference,
Jeff Peterson with Kiewit, who was the lead, our infrastructure
partner in construction will be able to take additional questions. And I’ll kick it back
to Joel to close that. – Yeah I think some of the details, Jeff Peterson can talk about
but I think the important point is that we’re using the
latest, modern technology and so if you tried to compare from the previous spillway to now, this one is modern because
the industry has learned a lot since that one was built 50 years ago. So today has all the latest technology, which includes all the features
that Erin talked about. So I don’t think there’s any one feature, it’s the industry and the
technologies have increased and they’ve all been
deployed on this spillway. – [Interviewer] Through
additional monitoring that’s in place now to watch
what’s going on up there, cameras or electronics in the slab itself to watch for how water
is moving under the slab? – So the question is, “Are
there additional monitoring “techniques or equipment to
monitor use of the spillway?” DWR has a robust monitoring
program in place. We have 24 hour surveillance
and monitoring of the spillway. As well as, I believe it’s 34 piezometers in the spillway design measuring pressure and 70, what are called prisms, which measure the movement. I should kick it to the engineer. (laughing) I’ll hand it over to Joel Ledesma. – Yeah I think part of
reconstructing the spillway also meant modernizing our monitoring. And so as Erin stated,
there’s roughly 36 piezometers built into the spillway to measure pressure under the spillway. There’s about 70 piezometers along the, I mean prisms to monitor
movement in the walls of the emergency spillway. And then additional cameras
that we’ve installed that are permanent, so also
visible view of the spillway. – Yeah, Ryan. – [Ryan] Real quick
question, did I hear right that you have downstream
flows that are gonna be about 60,000 cfs in the coming weeks? – So the question is, “At
what flows are we expecting “the Feather River to
be later in the week?” – [Ryan] Or in the coming weeks? – We’re anticipating that
flows to the Feather River could increase to up to 40 to 60,000 cfs, potentially, depending on
what forecasts show us. – [Ryan] And what’s the
downstream rating to the levee? It’s 150, right? – And the follow up question is, “what’s the downstream levee rating?” and yes, it is about 150 cfs. – [Interviewer] And that
40 to 60 is all outlets? – I’m sorry one more time? – [Interviewer] That 40
to 60 is all outlets? – That’s correct. The 40 to 60 is all outflows
from Oroville facilities as well as natural inflows
from precipitation. – [Interviewer] So definitely
the spillway is top, state of the art, what about the fact that the rest of the complex
still has not been brought up to other areas that, with
one area that was fixed? – So the question is, “What
is the status of other updates “to the Oroville facilities?” and I’ll pass it over to Joel Ledesma. – You know another action that
we’ve taken here at Oroville is part of our modernizing and investing in our infrastructure
is we’ve been working on a comprehensive needs
assessment of the facility that’s in progress now. We expect to have that
completed mid next year and that’s really gonna
dictate what more modernization or areas we need to ensure
safety of the facility and it’s functionality. – Reesa. – [Reesa] Let’s look to the
automatic emergency spillway? – We are working, sorry the question was, “What is left to do on
the emergency spillway “at this point?” So we’ve bolstered the emergency
spillways significantly to reinforce it. The remaining work is adding
a concrete cap to the buttress that was reconstructed over the course of the last two years. Follow up? – When will the (unintelligible)
be halted for now? So when will that be (unintelligible)? – I actually, I’m not
sure that we have that answer for you right at this time. But I’m sure Jeff Peterson
will be able to give us a timeline for when that work
will be complete this year. In the back. Rachel. – [Rachel] So you said you’re
ready and that’s great. What if there is a failure? What other mechanisms are in place or emergency personnel in place in case there is some sort of a disaster? And then moving forward have you reviewed any lessons learned from the last time in terms of evacuation response? – The question is, “What
emergency measures are in place “if something were to go wrong?” I’ll pass it to Joel Ledesma
but I’ll just add that Lieutenant Bell here with
the sheriff’s office is here. We also have our partners with the California Highway Patrol. DWR is not responsible
for evacuation so I think questions as to changes
to the evacuation methods would best be directed at those folks. But as far as additional
work that we’ve done to anticipate, or what
would we do differently to release flows if
something were to happen, I’ll hand it over to Joel Ledesma. – Thank you and great question. I mean, so the facility
runs 24/7 so our staff is prepared to handle emergencies
and other items like that. But on staff we have the design team that designed the spillway
for any questions. We’re monitoring and
we’re in communication with all our local partners
which includes the sheriff, the downstream communities. In the event that something would happen, which we don’t expect,
then we would be following our emergency action plan
and taking all the necessary actions to protect the
downstream communities and the dam. – And I would add that
that emergency action plan has been updated since February 2017 to accommodate for the
things that we’ve learned. We keep moving. Yep. – [Interviewer] Molly,
this is more for you. This is a normal thing,
operating the spillway. Is it pretty much seasonal
that the spillway would operate ’cause it’s gotta become,
I guess they’ve kinda got this emergency light put on it,
in the last couple of years, but it’s a typical operation
though to open the spillway, is it not? – So the question is, “Is
this a typical operation “to open the spillway?” – Correct, this is normal operations, especially during wet years. We do use the spillway,
essentially almost 50% of the time. – Juan there. – [Juan] Erin, is there any
update on FEMA reimbursements? The latest one that is rejected,
is that not the last one? Or will there be more
reimbursements to come? – Thanks, Juan. The question was, “What’s the
latest on FEMA reimbursements “is what we reported out
recently the latest?” “and are we expecting
additional reimbursement?” To date, FEMA has approved
205 million dollars in federal funds to reimburse the state for spillway reconstruction costs. Those funds, that 205 is in
addition to the 128.4 million that FEMA previously
approved for reimbursement for emergency response, debris
removal, and other costs. We are going to be appealing
that initial determination from FEMA and making the case
that we believe all emergency response and recovery costs,
including reconstruction, should be reimbursable. – [Interviewer] Well
you’re betting that 300, is there gonna be additional
tranches considered above and beyond that, or
is this the total amount (unintelligible) – So the question is, “Are we expecting an additional amount?” I think that will be determined
through the appeals process over the course of the next couple months. – [Interviewer] And then
Joel, the Feather River downstream of here is, can
you give us an update on what they’re doing to remediate
some of the Feather River just downstream of there? It’s been hammered pretty hard
through this whole operation. – The question is, “What are we doing “What is being done down the Feather River to
mitigate some of the damage from recent high flows?” I think, I’m gonna say that actually none of the folks up here are gonna be the right folks for you to talk to. Downstream maintenance or,
it’s the responsible work of the local maintaining
agencies and communities and DWR’s kinda not as
involved in that work. – [Interviewer] What’s
the total cost right now for the project? – So Bob’s question is,
“What’s the total cost “of the reconstruction?” The total cost is 1.1
billion dollars for both emergency response and recovery. That number has not been
updated since the last time we talked about it, which I believe was in October of 2018. Obviously, work is still underway. That dollar figure does
include site rehabilitation for after the construction,
but if that number changes, if that estimate changes, we will certainly keep you updated. Dale. – [Dale] What’s the likelihood – Sorry Reesa. – [Dale] That you would have to use the emergency spillway this spring? And would it be ready? – So the question is,
“What is the likelihood “that we would have to
use the emergency spillway “this spring and would it be ready?” and I’ll hand it to Joel Ledesma. – So as we’ve been talking really about this is normal operation. You know the normal
operation is to keep using the main spillway to manage reservoirs, therefore we don’t intend to
use the emergency spillway. If there was some extreme weather, then that’s what we would be looking at as we’re managing the reservoir elevations and at that point, but
the emergency spillway has been reconstructed and is capable of full functionality. – Sorry
– What’s full functionality? – I’ll answer this
question really quickly. What’s full functionality
of the emergency spillway? It’s been reconstructed to handle flows of 100,000 cubic feet
per second but Joel spoke to the comprehensive
needs assessment that DWR has underway and that will be
looking at the entire facility and reassessing what total
flows we need for long term. Now I’m gonna pass it to Reesa
’cause I think I skipped her. – [Reesa] Can you tell
me about how the rebuild has taken the forensic
report into account? – Yeah, the question
is, “How has the rebuild “taken the independent forensic
team’s report into account?” Do you want me to? – Yeah, go ahead. – So we certainly have looked at the independent forensic team’s report, as well as many other
studies as to what caused the failure of the main spillway in 2017. We’ve made those
adjustments and improvements based on those reports. Much of that was addressed
in using 21st century design and reconstruction so we’re
confident that this spillway has been redesigned using
today’s best modern technologies and engineering to
accommodate for what led to February 2017. – [Interviewer] Can you just
follow back up a little bit on your description of
the emergency spillway what work has been done and what was not? There was a lot of
technical stuff in there that would you mind maybe restating it so we understand what the concrete path is and it’s importance and
is there concrete there for water to fall on? – Sure so the question
is, “What work exactly “has been done on the emergency spillway “and can we explain it a little bit more?” – I will and then if you
have additional questions I think Jeff Peterson
in the back is gonna be your best point of contact. So DWR built a splashpad on the hillside of the emergency spillway. It’s in a stair step pattern,
which helps dissipate energy as the water moves down it. That splash pad meets a
underground cut off wall, that is about 730 feet downhill from the emergency spillway weir. That underground cut off wall
is installed into bedrock at depths of 35 to 65 feet deep. So that will help lead the
water down the hillside, dissipate the energy, and
then if there is any cutting of the hillside up, it’ll stop at that underground cut off wall. In addition to that, we’ve bolstered the emergency spillway weir with construction of a buttress and the cap on that buttress is like a hat is the
best way to describe it, which helps again dissipate the power and energy of the water
so that as it flows over, it hits that cap, then
moves down the buttress, then moves down the stair step, down into the Feather River. So not seeing — – [Interviewer] One last
one, what’s the main, so you have the main spillway,
what’s that rated for? Cfs wise? – The question is, “What is
the cfs of the main spillway?” I’ll pass it to Joel Ledesma. – So the design rating
for that is 269,000 cfs but the operations plan to
operate it is at 150,000 to accommodate for the levees downstream. – [Interviewer] So and to
basically what you’re saying with the emergency
spillway is the only way that it could be used, barring some sort of thing
that happened like in 2017, we have to exceed 250,000
cfs down the main spillway and then another 100,000 could
potentially go over that? It’s like a Godzilla storm
we’re talking about, right? – Yeah I mean sometimes we refer
to it as a Noah’s arc storm but you know if we were at
those flows then we would be dealing with extreme weather
and the operations plan also accounts for extreme
weather events like that. – Yep. – [Interviewer] Sorry
just back to the numbers, just so we can understand, I
know in the operations manual I’m just basing a (unintelligible) like there’s a top of conservancy,
we have to keep the lake I think it’s about 50 or 60%
through the flood season. Is there a TOC for Oroville? Are we encroaching in
that TOC at this point? I’m getting back to that sweet spot. Where is the? – So the question is,
“What is the TOC, top of? – [Interviewer] Conservancy. – Well clearly Molly’s the one
who should be answering this since she knows what it stands for so I’ll pass it over to Molly. – Yes there is a top of conservation. We’re operating in accordance
with the Army Corps flood control manual and as of April 1st, that we’re on the rising limb
of the flood control diagram. – [Interviewer] What is it? – It varies every day. Every day that top of
conservation gets less and less and it’s dependent upon the basin wetness. – [Interviewer] Are we
encroached in that now? Is that why you’re opening the spillway? – We’re slightly encroached. And we are opening the spillway
to manage the encroachment, as well as the forecasted
rainfall and snow melt. – [Interviewer] Are you
hoping to have the outflow equal the inflow or are you
gonna let this slowly rise up? – The follow up question
was, “Are we planning to let “the outflow from Oroville
facilities match the inflow “into the facilities?” I’ll pass it back to Molly. – Today we’re managing to inflow and that’ll be subject to change based upon the forecast that we receive on a daily basis. And what’s important
as we’re going through the spring refill is
not to fill too quickly. And so we’ll be, as I stated earlier, we’ll be having increased
releases to the Feather River just to moderate and manage the storage gain into the lake. – [Interviewer] Do we
expect the lake to go up? – Follow up question, “Do we
expect the lake to go up?” I’ll give it back to Molly. – Yes, at this point we will be seeing still slightly increases in lake elevation, lake levels. – Not seeing any other burning questions. It is 9:35. We are planning to open the spillway gates just before 11 A.M. so we will see you all out on Oro Dam Boulevard East. Thanks for joining us.

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