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)


What caused nearly 20,000 quakes at Oroville Dam? Scientists weigh in on mystery

: sfchronicle – excerpt

The earthquakes hit just days after last year’s near-catastrophe at Oroville Dam, when the spillway cracked amid heavy rains and 188,000 people fled in fear of flooding.

The timing of the two small tremors about 75 miles north of Sacramento was curious, and frightening. Were the quakes part of a seismic hot spot that caused the giant concrete spillway to tear? Was the weight of the water behind the dam triggering the quakes? Could all of Lake Oroville be prone to slipping?

A group of seismologists, summoned from the U.S. Geological Survey’s research facility in Menlo Park, was put on the case. Their findings were published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America on Monday…

Fortunately, the researchers concluded, the nation’s tallest dam is not in imminent danger. They don’t think earthquakes caused the fracture. Just the opposite may be true, they said… (more)


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