Railroad-built dam to cost $500 million to repair

California's Oroville Dam sustained major damage during February 2017 storms
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A locomotive emerges from one of three loading facilities in central California in the 1960s to move earth to build the Oroville Dam.
Donald Sims
OROVILLE, Calif. — Repairing the Oroville Dam will cost about $500 million dollars, a California Department of Water Resources official tells the Associated Press. That sum is almost twice the original $275 million-estimate the agency previously quoted.

The $500 million-estimate calculates the cost of repairs only. It does not factor in the $140 to $160 million it cost to evacuate 200,000 nearby residents from the area in February 2017. Officials noted damage to the dam's main spillway just as heavy rainfall began to fill the dam to capacity.

The original structure's construction in 1962 moved so much material that it required the creation of an entirely new shortline railroad, the 12-mile Oro Dam Railroad. The railroad was supplied with state-of-the-art equipment, for the time, including centralized traffic control, rotating dump cars, and innovative unit-train tactics that predated their use on Class I railroads. The trains operated on a 24-hour schedule to move a total of 54 million tons of gravel and travel 350 miles per day.

The modern repair project is expected to use 1 million cubic yards of concrete to replace the main spillway with a stronger design and to reinforce the dam wall against future erosion.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has already reimbursed the state of California for part of the cost of those repairs. California water agency officials hope that the agency will reimburse up to 75 percent of the repair costs. The rest will be paid by water department customers.

See the original story online.
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