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Hole in tallest U.S. dam not dangerous, say officials

Staff Writer |
A 30-foot hole has appeared in a section of the tallest dam in the U.S. that is expected to worsen, but there was no immediate threat it will fail, endangering thousands of area residents, California state officials said.

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State authorities and engineers on Thursday released water from the Lake Oroville Dam in Northern California as water levels in the reservoir rose due to heavy rain and snow.

There was no imminent or expected threat to public safety or the dam, the Butte County Sheriff's Office said, and the California Department of Water Resources said the structure was sound.

Still, authorities advised people living along the Feather River below the dam to gather important belongings and consider shelter if an evacuation warning is issued.

The earthfill dam is just upstream and to the east of Oroville, a city of more than 16,260 people 65 miles north of Sacramento.

At 770 feet high, the structure, built between 1962 and 1968, is the tallest dam in the United States, besting the famed Hoover Dam by more than 40 feet.

Water levels at the dam on Friday were over 894 feet, less than 7 feet from the top, said Doug Carlson, a spokesman for the Department of Water Resources.

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