Lawsuit claims corruption, racism, sexual harassment contributed to Oroville Dam crisis

By Ryan Sabalow and Darrell Smith : sacbee – excerpt

Workers were patching Oroville Dam’s weathered concrete spillway, nearly four years before a massive crater would tear it open.

Michael Hopkins, an employee at the Department of Water Resources, alleges he saw something he would never forget.

A legally deaf woman was assigned to drive a truck down the spillway and listen for hollow sounds in the concrete as her colleagues performed what’s known as “chain drag testing,” Hopkins wrote in a declaration filed last week in Sacramento Superior Court.

“This isn’t going to work,” the woman told her supervisor, who brushed off her concerns and told her to get back to work, Hopkins wrote.

Hopkins’ allegation isn’t the only alarming charge found in a lawsuit stemming from the crisis at the nation’s tallest dam, which began two years ago Thursday when a large crater formed in the spillway, eventually leading to the evacuation of 188,000 people.

The suit before Sacramento Superior Court Judge James McFetridge has ballooned to include allegations that dam officials stole equipment, cooked financial books to conceal wrongdoing, destroyed evidence and fostered a toxic culture of sexual and racial harassment that included slurs and nooses hung where a black worker would find them… (more)


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