A team of forensic experts investigating the collapse of the Oroville Dam Spillway said Tuesday that federal and state inspectors missed clues for years that the structure was unstable, according to The Sacramento Bee.
The February collapse nearly resulted in thousands of flooded homes after record amounts of snowfall and precipitation caused a massive spike in Lake Oroville’s water level, forcing officials to use the defective spillway to manage the lake level, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) commissioned the group of independent experts to study the crisis in hindsight and find out its cause and how it could have been prevented. The group found hints of structural problems in blueprints and documents of the dam dating back to 1969, The Sacramento Bee reports.
“We believe they were all there,” leader of the forensic team John France told reporters. “They were all there in the files.”
He added that DWR officials appeared to have ignored the files since dam construction was completed in 1968.
While the DWR conducted regular visual inspections of the sight, none of the structural deficiencies were visible.
“Physical inspections, while necessary, are not sufficient to identify risks and manage safety,” the forensic report said according to The Sacramento Bee. “At Oroville Dam, more frequent physical inspections would not likely have uncovered the issues which led to the spillway incident.”
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