FERC Part 12D Safety Review for the Oroville Dam Complex
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The Oroville Dam Complex is owned and operated by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR).

It consists of three dams, Oroville Dam, Bidwell Bar Canyon Saddle Dam, and Parish Camp Saddle Dam, that create the Oroville Reservoir about 70 miles north of Sacramento.

In addition to the dams, the complex includes the Edward Hyatt Powerhouse, the service and emergency spillways, and a low level outlet. In 2017, a portion of the service spillway chute slab failed and the emergency spillway was used for the first time, resulting in significant erosion of the downslope hillside. In response to this incident, DWR initiated the Oroville Dam Safety Comprehensive Needs Assessment (CNA) to identify priorities and appropriate solutions to bolster the safety and resiliency of Oroville Dam and its appurtenances.

Separate from the CNA, DWR must retain an Independent Consultant(s) to conduct a safety inspection and prepare a report for the Oroville Complex every five years in accordance with the requirements of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and of Part 12D of Title 18 of the Code of Federal Regulations (Part 12D Safety Review).

Geosyntec's Scope of Services

As part of the CNA process, DWR convened an Independent Review Board (IRB) to perform independent technical reviews of key deliverables and work products. Geosyntec senior staff serve as part of the IRB, which is reviewing and assessing measures and alternative plans developed by DWR to reduce risk associated with the project facilities and their operation. DWR awarded Geosyntec a five-year contract to serve as co-Independent Consultant and prepare the reports for the Tenth Part 12D Safety Inspection of the Oroville Complex. The Part 12D Safety Inspections included an extensive review of existing documentation for Oroville and the two saddle dams, including original construction documents and recent analyses and investigations conducted as a result of the Ninth Part 12D Safety Inspection. It also included site visits and participation in a FERC Level 2 Risk Assessment. The Tenth Part 12D Safety Inspection Reports comment on the safety and reliability of the Oroville Complex and recommend actions to reduce risk and enhance the safety of the facilities. Geosyntec staff have also served as part of the Level 2 Risk Assessment team providing subject matter expertise in the field of dam failure consequences.

Notable Accomplishments

The Tenth Part 12D Safety Inspection Reports for the Oroville Complex are the first Part 12D Reports for any hydroelectric project in the United States that incorporate results from a FERC Level 2 Risk Assessment. Geosyntec has been an integral part of the team pioneering the process for incorporating the Level 2 Risk Assessment results in the Part 12D Safety Reports, with the ultimate goal of providing clear and actionable recommendations to reduce the overall risk for the project.

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Project Summary

  • Location: Butte County, California
  • Client: California Department of Water Resources
  • Project Practice Areas: Geotechnical
  • Type of Facility: Dam complex
  • Services Provided: FERC Part 12D Safety Review, Level 2 Risk Analysis, Comprehensive Needs Assessment
  • Type of Work: Dam safety assessment
  • Governing Regulation: FERC regulations