Oroville Dam Incident Emergency Website Launched

California launched an emergency website after the Oroville Dam incident to keep local communities informed through construction.


After an emergency event, such as a dam breach that leads to evacuations, an incident emergency website can go a long way to keep residents informed.

On February 11, 2017, the United States watched in amazement as water flowed over the lip of the Oroville Dam’s concrete weir and engaged an emergency spillway for the first time. By the next day, the old spillway was eroding quickly and downstream communities began to experience flooding. The Butte County Sheriff’s Office issued mandatory evacuation orders for the Oroville area, as did several other cities in nearby Yuba and Sutter Counties.

Downstream communities had lots of questions about the dam’s lack of operational flexibility and reliability to protect them from floods, but they also were very concerned about the state agency’s ability to communicate during the disaster. An April letter by a coalition of concerned community groups, local governments, businesses, labor groups and individuals from the affected communities to the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) stated:

DWR’s outreach to the downstream communities directly impacted has been inadequate at best. Our best sources of information have been informal and indirect sources rather than through official DWR channels.”

DWR has answered the letter, query by query, according to the Gridley Herald, and launched the Oroville Spillway Incident website.

The website contains:

  • Live video streams
  • Information and notes from public meetings
  • Reports
  • Press Kit
  • Photos and more
  • News about operational updates and more

DWR’s response also noted that the agency is compiling all questions raised at related public meetings and will post answers to those questions this month.

The Oroville Dam Incident began when runoff of more than one million acre-feet since from rainfall that began February 6th began to inundate Lake Oroville and its levels rose above 901 feet, according to the incident’s emergency website timeline. DWR is coordinating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and California’s Division of Safety of Dams regarding upcoming winter operations plans, though the goal is to secure the spillway by November 1, 2017.

Emergency websites can help governments offer efficient digital communications and prevent misinformation and confusion.

Andrea Fox is Editor of Gov1.com and Senior Editor at Lexipol. She is based in Massachusetts.