Virginia Tech expert says collapse of Oroville Dam in California is virtually impossible
Virginia Tech expert Michael Duncan, university distinguished professor emeritus in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, says the danger at Oroville Dam in California is confined to the spillway. While forecasters expect additional storms into next week, damage to the dam itself is highly unlikely.
Duncan explains that the safety of the auxiliary spillway at Oroville is dependent on preventing further erosion at the top of the spillway. He says the dam will remain safe as long as there is no more erosion of the auxiliary spillway hillside. The California Department of Water Resources, which owns and operates the dam and reservoir, is currently working to armor the auxiliary spillway by placing large rocks and large bags of rocks in the eroded areas.
“Damage to the dam is an extremely remote possibility and it could only occur if there was erosion in the abutment of the dam. Collapse of the dam itself is not a realistic possibility,” says Duncan.
A member of the National Academy of Engineering, Duncan joined the Virginia Tech community in 1984. He is world-renowned for his contributions to the discipline of geotechnical engineering. His work includes embankment dam engineering, soil shear strength and slope stability, seepage through soils, and finite element analysis for soil structures. Duncan has served as a consultant on a number of major geotechnical projects, such as the Panama Canal and the levee and flood control structure failures in New Orleans associated with Hurricane Katrina.
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