LENOIR CITY (WATE) – The country’s tallest dam is threatening to flood communities in Northern California and a major operation to evacuate nearly 200,000 people is underway.
Water is gushing from the Oroville Dam, which holds back water from Lake Oroville, now sitting at record levels. Last week, chunks of concrete came off the dam’s emergency spillway, causing millions of gallons of water to pour from the dam each second, creating a massive 300-foot wide hole. Crews are working around the clock to minimize the threat.
The Tennessee Valley Authority operates 49 dams in Tennessee. WATE 6 On Your Side wanted to know what the agency is doing to prevent a similar disaster from happening here.
TVA officials say they dams they operate, like Fort Loudoun Dam, should be considered safe. They are confident of the extensive testing done at each site.
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TVA is keeping a close eye on the situation in California where it appears they have some sort of an erosion issue, which is creating challenges for them both on their main spillway and their auxiliary spillway.
TVA public relations manager Jim Hopson says Califorina emergency management agencies made the right decision to evacuate.
“The chances of a dam failing are very, very low. However, the consequences of a failure would be very high. So you have to take those precautionary steps, take it very seriously,” he said.
Hopson says to prevent issues at TVA’s 49 dams, they have a comprehensive dam safety program in place. He says employees at the dams look for issues every day. There is another more detailed check each month and every year or two, TVA does geophysical assessments.
“We actually take drill rigs out and drill into the geology on and around dams so we understand not only what is happening on the surface, but that’s happening under the surface,” Hopson said. “That again allows us to determine very quickly if something is changing and if we need to take any corrective actions.”
Hopson says community members’ minds should be at ease knowing how much testing is done at each TVA site.