Oroville Dam powerplant offline due to Thompson Fire, DWR reopens main spillway

OROVILLE – The Thompson Fire burning in Butte County has impacted operations at the Oroville Dam, officials say.

California Department of Water Resources officials announced on Tuesday that several State Water Project facilities in the area of the Thompson Fire are under evacuation orders – including the Hyatt Powerplant at the Oroville Dam.

#ThompsonFire continues to burn in the Oroville area. This is a look from Oroville Dam! Active Fire burning Along Potters Ravine Loop Trail. ⁦@GoodDaySac⁩ ⁦@CBSSacramento⁩ #fire pic.twitter.com/yWeQV4JFQG — DG (@CameraGuyDave1) July 3, 2024

PG&E has de-energized the high-voltage powerlines and staff have been evacuated, DWR says, but some essential staff have also been relocated to the Thermalito Pumping-Generating Plant.

To maintain water releases and temperature control in the Feather River, DWR says the Oroville Dam’s main spillway has been reopened.

As seen in images released by the Butte County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday, burned vegetation can be seen all around the main spillway. Parts of the earthfill embankment of the dam also show scorch marks.

The aftermath of the fire as seen on Wednesday. Butte County Sheriff’s Office

Noticeable scorch marks (center) can be seen on the embankment that makes up the dam. Butte County Sheriff’s Office

Despite the Thompson Fire now burning in the area of the dam, DWR noted that there are no risks to the structure. Further, officials say other precautionary measures – like wetting down possibly at-risk areas and positioning backup generators at key facilities – have been implemented.

Windy conditions in the area remain a concern for firefighters battling the Thompson Fire.

As of Wednesday morning, Cal Fire says the Thompson Fire has burned more than 3,500 acres. Nearly 30,000 people are under evacuation orders.

The Oroville Dam is the tallest dam in the US and is a critical part of California’s water system. Its main spillway had to be reconstructed after it failed in February 2017, prompting a massive evacuation of the area.

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