Now $870 million, price of Oroville Dam crisis jumps by a third

Oroville Dam’s battered flood-control spillways have been largely rebuilt, but the cost of last February’s near-disaster keeps rising. On Friday, state officials put the total price tag at $870 million.

The latest figure from the California Department of Water Resources represents a 32 percent increase from DWR’s estimate in October, when the cost was pegged at approximately $660 million.

State officials insist the climbing price tag is not from unexpected cost overruns. Instead, DWR spokeswoman Erin Mellon said the agency has finally been able to estimate the cost of recovery work that includes removal of debris from the Feather River channel below the dam; relocation of power transmission lines; staff time and other work that’s been undertaken since last winter’s crisis. Those costs came to $210 million.

“So it’s not a jump in costs at all,” she said.

Of the total $870 million cost, the largest expense is the reconstruction of the dam’s two badly damaged flood-control spillways. Mellon said the reconstruction work, which is proceeding in two phases and is expected to be completed this fall, is expected to cost $500 million. That estimate hasn’t changed since last October. …

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