In 2005, three environmental groups warned state and federal officials about what they believed was a problem with the Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway, which was at risk of collapsing over the weekend in California as recent storms caused the adjacent massive reservoir to swell. Their concern, which seemed to have fallen on deaf ears: The emergency spillway is not really a spillway. Rather, it’s a 1,700-foot-long concrete weir that empties into a dirt hillside. That means in the event of severe flooding, water would erode that hillside and flood nearby communities, the groups said then. That nearly happened Sunday, when a hole on the emergency spillway threatened to flood the surrounding area and prompted officials to evacuate thousands of residents who remained displaced as of Monday afternoon.
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