The mayor of Oroville says she knew about cracks in the replacement spillway at the dam just up the Feather River from her city -- and is not concerned. But she's criticizing state water officials for what she calls their failure to communicate effectively with her town.
Linda Dahlmeier said the Department of Water Resources should have proactively communicated that cracks were expected in newly placed concrete on the spillway, but has instead created a "firestorm" in a community that was rattled by sudden evacuation orders last February.
Nearly 200,000 people were forced to evacuate when engineers feared that damaged spillways at Oroville Dam would unleash an uncontrolled wall of water that would inundate Oroville and communities downstream. The crisis was averted.
The existence of small cracks in the new concrete was first reported by KQED earlier this week after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission posted communications about them online. Officials downplayed concerns about them Thursday in a conference call with reporters, saying hairline cracks are normal and expected in reinforced concrete because it shrinks as it cures.
Dahlmeier said that could have been communicated more effectively before the letter went public.