Oroville Dam Threatens To Collapse

This is a running commentary on the rapidly developing Oroville dam situation in California. Because the story is so fluid right now, there isn’t yet time to write a complete report.

I’ll have a tidy summary at some point, but first we have to scour and assemble the information.

The reason we cover such situations in detail as they develop is because we feel we can do a better job of condensing and presenting complex and rapid information than the mainstream news. We don’t sensationalize, we strive to use grounded facts every time, and we think such situations offer a learning moment to help orient us to the realities of the world in which we live, as well as how we should think about preparing and being prepared.

The bottom line is that the US has many poorly-maintained dams, bridges, water works and other key infrastructure. Even worse, we’ve built many of these structures using a form of concrete with re-bar for tensile reinforcement that will necessitate virtually 100% replacement of all concrete structures within 40 to 100 years of being built.  Here's a previous report I wrote explaining this concrete situation in more detail.

So in this respect, the Oroville dam is a signpost for past shortsighted decision-making that will ultimately require very large sums of money for future maintenance and repair. Expect to see an increasing number of emergency failure threats like this appear in the years to come.


February 12th 2017 --9:11 p.m.  (post #1)

This is a pretty shocking development. I'd been somewhat enjoying watching the spillway disgorge huge amounts of water, but apparently things took a turn for the worse.


OROVILLE, Calif. -- Officials have ordered thousands of residents near the Oroville Dam to evacuate the area, saying a "hazardous situation is developing" after an emergency spillway severely eroded.

The Butte County Sheriff's Office says the emergency spillway could fail within an hour unleashing uncontrolled flood waters from Lake Oroville.

The department says people in downstream areas need to leave the area immediately. It says residents of Oroville, a town of 16,000 people, should head north toward Chico and that other cities should follow orders from their local law enforcement agencies.

A major dam failure is a very rare, and possibly symbolic thing to occur at this time.  Very much not "first world."



Sun, Feb 12, 2017 - 9:41pm

This was a very good piece of reporting by a private citizen...much better than Da Newz...which presumably didn't want to overly concern anyone...or something.


At any rate, another great reason to keep your go bags organized, even if that means having your most important affairs in one place where you can get to them quickly.

The major issue is that the Oroville dam has too much water behind it.  There are only three 'approved' ways for it to be released.  I've pulled these three images from the above video.

1) is the hydro plant at the base of the dam.  That has been shut down because of some sort of problem.

2) Is the concrete spillway.  That is severely compromised (see pictures below) and is in danger of failing.

3) Is the emergency spillway.  The problem there is that the water got high enough that it took an unapproved route there too...the unreinforced parking area is now spilling water.  

There are no good choices left for releasing additional water.   So the spillway may fail and the first, large modern dam in US history could fail.  Wild.

Here's the damage to the spillway that was there before the additional releases had to happen...they had noticed an already weak spot in the spillway was being badly eroded, stopped the flow briefly, and found this:

And in this next photo you can clearly see what happened when they had to continue releasing via the spillway to avoid losing the entire emergency spillway which was also being eroded badly at the base.

Oops. No good choices left here.

You can clearly see that the emergency spillway is eating its way up towards the earth that is holding the water in the dam back.  Bad choice.

But the emergency spillway is eroding badly both at the parking lot end and the far right side where emergency concrete was poured at the base of the emergency spillway just a day or two before the water topped it.


Sun, Feb 12, 2017 - 10:03pm


NBC now reporting that the spillway has failed.  I have not confirmed this via a second source yet.

This is not the same thing as the dam failing...but it's a step closer to that.

Hopefully the bedrock stops the process before failure. 

Here's the best (jargony, but seemingly knowledgeable and factual) account I've come across so far:

I have heard that the emergency spillway is eroding through cutback. This will be an evolutionary erosive failure. It will take some time for the cut back. Hopefully the erosion will be stopped at bedrock.

However, I fear that if the erosion of the emergency spillway, on the canted bedrock of the abutment communicates with the hydraulics of the principal spillway, this may result in a V notch failure.

This would be the most serious type of failure. I believe there to be a good chance of a loss of the gate structure on the left (facing downstream). I expect loss of rock and perhaps some of the weir of the emergency spillway.

The training wall between the emergency and the principal spillway is a likely place for failure of structure. I understand that significant releases, which will be uncontrolled will take place, the possibility of this becoming very serious does, indeed exist. I am sorry with all of my heart that this is taking place. This is one time that I want so deeply to be wrong. All of my best wishes are with you tonight.

Scott Cahill (update 1)

As I write the Oroville dam in California is eroding back toward a breach of the reservoir. I am a dam contractor. If you ever heard someone say "that dam contractor.." they may have been talking about me.

I have repaired hundreds of dams including ones like Oroville, which were in the process of failure. I know a lot about dams.

The spillway failure is a common type of failure, where phreatic, or surface water entered the spillway, migrating beneath the slabs. (A static element on a dynamic element, A hard element on a live element). The dam is hydrated and dehydrated as water levels rise and fall, moving, as soils swell from pressures and water mass. In times of high rain the phreatic surface (hydrated soils line) moves toward the surface, venting into the void so produced.



This creates a void. Moving water over the years has eroded soils from beneath the slab downstream and left a channel. Now, the spillway has been actuated in a high-flow event and the plates of the spillway have failed into the stream, scouring from beneath them. They will continue to fail as the water continues to flow. The hydraulic jump exacerbates this erosion.

If the flow continues for a long enough time, with sufficient velocity, the reservoir will be voided by the migration of the erosion to the pool (cut-back). I cannot tell if failure is imminent, from Ohio, but it is an unacceptable situation that has been allowed to develop. It is a case of pennies pinched producing dollars spent, perhaps tragedy.


What we can learn as a nation is the information that is being disseminated. Words chosen carefully, to not excite, to not scare. The issue, as it now stands is serious, life-threatening even. The officials, the owners reps, the media will tell us now, that there is nothing to be be frightened about - all under control (remember Katrina??).

We have, for so long, ignored the failing infrastructure of this great nation, Let us hope that a fatal failure is not necessary to get us to act. Past experience does not make me hopeful of that.

Oroville is 770' high, 6,920' long. It is one of the 20 largest dams in the world. If Oroville breaks, The city will be flooded.

Eight thousand three hundred and seventy five residents are at risk within the inundation zone. Two hundred thirty critical facilities in the city of Oroville are within the inundation zone, including; Eleven schools, twenty one day care and children service centers, fourteen elder care facilities, twenty six bridges will be lost, the airport, two fire stations, the government administration building, three law enforcement stations, the EMERGENCY OPERATIONS CENTER (brilliant) Two waste water treatment plants, the jail, and the Hospital. (from the City of Oroville local hazard mitigation plan update May, 2013)

We are not talking about a river rising, where people have time to evacuate. We are talking about a wall of debris, mud, and water taking out a city, buildings, roads, bridges, life, in a horrible instant.

When will we, at last mandate proper maintenance and inspection of these high hazard and medium hazard dams? Why are we willing to suffer a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars to save a couple of dollars on proper and responsible dam safety and repairs?

Whatever you may hear, this is a significant event which could be horrible in its scope and its magnitude. Let us pray that it does not breach, and let us hope that, at last people are sufficiently concerned to act.

Scott Cahill (original) (Source)



Mon, Feb 13, 2017 - 6:47am

Here's the latest on the storms that are due to arrive with more rain for the Oroville catchment system:

DWR needs to lower the lake level by another 50 feet to prepare for the incoming storms.

They've got just a couple of days to do this.

I am not at all clear on how much water was arriving vs. leaving between the 11th and 12th, but it took almost exactly one day to reduce the level by 1 foot:


If I lived anywhere downstream of that dam in a low lying spot I would be clearing out all of my stuff that I cared about.  

And, right now, I'd be driving very far away so I could find reasonable long-term living arrangements...I bet this isn't resolved for quite some time.  A week minimum, until they safely get past the rains and feel confident about the dam structure.  But possibly a lot longer (and that's assuming no "uncontrolled release" situation).


Mon, Feb 13, 2017 - 7:21am



So the spillway may fail and the first, large modern dam in US history could fail.  


Not the first, depending on your definition of modern



You are right...I'll count that as a modern, major dam.  What a mess that was too.  

I loved these parts from the wiki article you linked, because I bet both dams will share this precise feature:

In 1973, when the dam was only half-built, but almost $5 million had already been spent on the project, large open fissures were encountered during excavation of the key trench near the right end of the dam, about 700 feet (210 m) from the canyon wall.

The two largest, near-vertical fissures trend generally east-west and extend more than 100 feet (30 m) below the bottom of the key trench. Some of the fissures are lined by calcite, and rubble fills others. Several voids, as much as 6 inches (15 cm) wide, were encountered 60 to 85 feet (18 to 26 m) below the ground surface beyond the right end of the dam and grout curtain.

The largest fissures were actually enterable caves. One of them was eleven feet (3.4 m) wide and a hundred feet (30 m) long. Another one was nine feet (2.7 m) wide in places and 190 feet (60 m) long. These were not grouted because they were beyond the keyway trench and beyond the area where the Bureau had decided grouting was required.

This necessitated using twice as much grouting as had been originally anticipated – 118,000 linear feet were used in total. Later, the report of a committee of the House of Representatives which investigated the dam's collapse felt that the discovery of the caves should have been sufficient for the Bureau of Reclamation to doubt its ability to fill them in with grout, but this did not happen: the Bureau continued to insist, even after the dam had failed, that the grouting was appropriate.

After the dam's collapse, debris clean-up began immediately and took the remainder of the summer. Rebuilding of damaged property continued for several years. Within a week after the disaster, President Gerald Ford requested a $200 million appropriation for initial payments for damages, without assigning responsibility for Teton Dam’s failure.

Yep, wouldn't want anyone from government being held responsible now would we?  You know accountability?  That's just for citizens, I guess.

Try having even a slight error on your tax forms during an audit, and you'll find out exactly how lenient the government can(not) be.  :)

The shared feature on the Oroville and Teton dams will be a complete lack of assigned blame.  Plus poor construction/maintenance.


Monday, Feb 13th - 8:09 a.m.

The water is now apparently 2.5 feet below the emergency spillway level.  This is a good sign.  Water is dropping much more quickly now, so the inflows must be receding.

Now it's a race against the arrival of the next storms


Monday, Feb 13th - 9:37 a.m.

Speaking of the rainfall, here's the weather service's seven day forecast...andother 4 to 7 inches in the region(!).


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://peakprosperity.com/oroville-dam-threatens-to-collapse/

This situation did not develop overnight. I’ve been following this story very closely over the entire past week via the reporting of average folks posting on a precious metals website I follow. Yes, I have been following “Fake News” on a fairly obscure website…call me a communist. Many people have been saying the official narrative has differed greatly from reality. As recently as Sunday morning the officials were saying all is well & there’s no need for people to evacuate. Then, suddenly at 5pm on Sunday night they give the command to evacuate immediately as a complete dam collapse could be imminent. The past few days there have many reports of dam webcams being disabled, or being turned in directions away from the dam. My sense is the officials wanted to have as much control over the narrative as possible for unknown reasons. Bottom line, it does not pay to be reliant on the MSM and the official narrative as this is as faked & contrived as anything else.
Never a FB person, here’s a live video feed from one of the local news stations…
Btw, my understanding is the evacuation is for over 200,000 people.

dryam2000 wrote:
This situation did not develop overnight. I've been following this story very closely over the entire past week via the reporting of average folks posting on a precious metals website I follow. Yes, I have been following "Fake News" on a fairly obscure website..... (...) Btw, my understanding is the evacuation is for over 200,000 people.
I totally agree, the situation did not develop overnight...what did develop overnight was the sudden announcement that things went from "no problems" to "RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!" This is precisely what we saw with Fukushima as well. The lesson is that the government has this weird aversion to 'freaking people out' and so they routinely err so far in the other direction that they put people's lives at risk. Which means we have to rely first and foremost on ourselves. I was not tracking this all that closely until yesterday, but I should have been. Like most people, I was alert to the spillway overtopping but I had not dug into the particulars of that dam and what that might mean. Note that the video that I linked to first was tracking the situation very closely and well in advance. So, once again, citizen news is way better than MSM news that is so defective and context free it's actually worse than fake. At least fake is obvious.

From Reddit:

A number of roads in the Oroville area are closed this morning due to flooding. Those commuting to Sacramento will need to take the I-5. Highway 99 is closed from Durham-Pentz road to south of Yuba City and Highway 70 is closed from Highway 149 to south of Yuba City. All roads below the Oroville spillway elevation in Oroville, Thermalito, Biggs, and Gridley south to the Butte County line are closed as well. If you are commuting south from the Chico area take highway 32 to I-5 south. Avoid roadways west of Chico typically used to access I-5 south as they are closed due to flooding. These roads included Sacramento Avenue, River Road, Ord Ferry Road, Aguas Frias Road, and Seven Mile Lane. We also want to remind you to leave extra time for commuting this morning as roadways will likely be crowded.

This is good news…

Water levels are dropping rapidly. Now to see what the storms bring…

Here’s the latest press conference (pulled from Reddit):

Press conference notes: Water will continue to be discharged at 100,000 cfs and the goal is to lower the lake level 50'. If the emergency spillway failed a 30' wall of water would flow out of the lake (as described by /u/psykh85 earlier). List of areas under evacuation orders and number of people impacted. Sheriff says there has been no looting or shots fired reported to him or sheriffs he has spoken with. Prior to the evacuation there was a burglary that possibly caused those incorrect rumors. Evacuations are going to continue and law enforcement is in the evacuated areas to protect property. List of shelters open and their capacity status. More shelters will be opened as needed. Most hotels in area are full List of road closures in area and travel updates There is no more water going over the emergency spillway and the DWR has been effective at reducing the risk of a failure. DWR will need time to evaluate the situation to determine when it will be safe for people to return to evacuated areas. Local, state, and federal resources are working on the situation. Bill Croyle (DWR Director): We are to going to continue to discharge as much water as possible to prepare for rainfall later in the week. As we assess our infrastructure and determine if we can push more water down stream we will do that. We will try to keep the discharge within the stream channel. The stream can handle about (150,000 cfs). We have not begun dropping rocks yet. The emergency spillway was never used before. The system was designed to handle 750,000 cfs without destroying the dam. "THE DAM IS SOLID". We determined we could not repair the primary spillway and knew there would be more damage. We are going to try to maintain the integrity of the existing infrastructure as much as possible. There is a strategy to preform a corrective measure to preserve the spillway if a window presents itself. Sheriff will not lift evacuation order until more analysis and information is available to determine if he can do so. -END OF PRESS CONFERENCE-
And here's a very telling comment from a different Reddit thread:
I and other engineers have been watching this materialize for a week. Nothing the DWR has said matches with what we've seen. NOTHING has been correct. They've been withholding and BS'ing people to the point that just yesterday they started calling the "Emergency Spillway" an "Auxiliary Spillway" to make it sound less scary. If lives are lost it'll be on the Department of Water Reclamation Resources. for a history of this cluster-f*&^ check my submission history.
Ha ha! I was wondering about that shift from "emergency" to "auxiliary." Thought I had somehow gotten things confused, but was just being purposely confused by people trying to calm me down. Reminds me of "America is energy independent." More confusion stemming from an attempt to make me feel better. Doesn't work.

The bad news is rain is coming Wednesday and for a couple days thereafter.

Anybody living in the region that might be affected by a giant wall of water from the Oroville dam should probably take the “it’s all stabilized and under control” statements with a gigantic grain of salt.
They’ve pretty much lied or downplayed all of this very badly all he way through so it would take a really big leap of faith to think they are being 100% honest now.
I’m willing to bet there’s an engineer or two out there on the scene who is screaming for the right to speak honestly with the public.
I’ll be talking to and recording the dam expert Scott Cahill later today (from the initial captured post in the main article above) and will share that asap. I’m thinking an outsider’s view could be useful here…

"Everybody knows the dice are loaded. Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed." What's wrong with us humans? If everybody knows the dice are loaded, why is anybody playing the game with them? Why not quit and leave the game? It's not just gambling and living downstream from failing dams which the government tells us are just fine. It's our response to The Three E's: we keep rolling the dice instead of running for the hills.

The comments below were originally posted under yesterday’s Daily Digest as the situation in Oroville developed. Consolidating them here in order to have all of the information complied with Chris’ post above.

Quercus bicolor wrote:
Let's look at what it took to get the lake to drop one foot in 23 hours. The lake is perhaps just over 10 square miles or about 300,000,000 sq. ft. So that's 300M cubic feet in about 83,000 seconds or just under 4000 cubic feet per second net (inflow - outflow) to achieve that. But they were dumping 100,000 cu. ft./s over the spillway, so inflow averaged 96,000 cu. ft./s. Now, they have about 3 days until Thursday when the rains begin in earnest or 260,000 seconds. They need to drain 300,000,000 x 50 = 15 billion cubic feet of water or about 55-60,000 cu. ft/s net drainage rate. They better hope the inflow drops to an average of 40,000 cu. ft./s if they keep up the 100,000 spill rate. That doesn't sound to likely. On to the rain: Last 06 UTC (10 PM PST) GFS weather prediction model was predicting 5-10+ inches of precipitation in the Sierras from day 3 to 9 Not quite the 10-20 inches that fell over the past week: The reservoir drains about 4000 sq miles or 110 billion square feet. 5 inches of precipitation makes for a bit under 50 billion cubic feet of water. if it all runs off in one week (about 600,000 seconds), that would be 83,000 cu. ft./s. Of course some will fall as snow and won't run off til spring, but the peak flow rate will also likely be significantly higher than the average for a few days. Another look: Lowering the reservoir will free up about 15 billion cu. ft. or about 30% of the expected precipitation in the basin over the next 10 days. I doubt they'll free up any more than 5-10 billion though. Of course, they could drain 60 billion cubic feet over days 4-10 at 100,000 cubic feet/second and some will be stored as snow, so maybe things will work out. But precipitation forecasts of that magnitude 4-10 days out are subject to significant error too. An then there's the question of whether the existing damaged spillways shored up by whatever reinforcement they can do over the next few days can sustain 100,000 cubic feet/s without failing.
Wendy S. Delmater wrote:
Migod - all of the research I am doing for this book (fiction, but involves a mine collapse) says calcite seams are the worst, most unstable.... We'd better hope that's not what they have under that spillway at Oroville.
fated wrote:
Confidence - Nil. T2H - that clip reminds me of the insignificance of the response humans were able to make to the Hazelwood mine fire, even with their 'advanced' firefighting technologies. Those choppers seem huge, imposing, and all powerful while on the airfield or flying over your house - but pale into nothingness once they have a significant natural backdrop behind them. If I were starving and they were making food drops - yes I'd be happy with their capabilities. But them sorting large scale natural disasters quickly - I've seen the ineffectiveness first hand.
helicopters from 3.30 on. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-j3XWSXnf8 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svoYoAfz3Eg just for interest Lies, denial and misinformation from the 'authorities' to the detriment of local residents. I hope everyone over there is safe and this can be resolved ASAP.
Time2help wrote:
FYI as background. Seeing this would not inspire confidence (no reflection on the pilots/helicopter crew, they are doing their jobs/best).
Time2help wrote:
California State Water Project (Wikipedia) Scroll down to the "Dams and Reservoirs" table and sort by capacity. Not sure what percentage of California's water supply this reservoir makes up, but it's 61% of the table below.

46 more to go in 3 days - that’s over 15 feet a day. As inflow decreases due to the dry weather, they should get more than 4 feet a day, but 15+?

Quercus bicolor wrote:
46 more to go in 3 days - that's over 15 feet a day. As inflow decreases due to the dry weather, they should get more than 4 feet a day, but 15+?
Great job running the numbers above. Also left un-mentioned is that the 100,000 CFS that they are currently dumping is coming out of the damaged spillway...they did this because they feared the undercutting of the emergency spillway more than the erosion of the main spillway. So...as long as that 100,000 CFS doesn't begin to really eat in further...then they can continue to dump. If that suddenly takes a turn for the worse, then decisions have to be made. Slow down the dumping and hope for less rain and risk it all, or keep it up and risk it all? No good choices there if that's how this plays out. I think the helicoptering of miniscule bags of rocks into the breach tells us they are playing for every and any advantage they can, no matter how slight. Who knows, the difference may well be the last bag placed?

In Race Against Coming Storm, Workers Scramble To Plug Oroville Dam Hole Using Rocks, Sandbags (Zerohedge)

Here is video footage of the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the Feather river. Lots of snow early then a warm, wet storm moved through. The combination of significant rainfall and snow melt caused over 200000 cfs of inflow into Lake Oroville.

The Middle Fork of the Feather river at this point is usually not much more than a small creek surrounded by dry sagebrush cattle range. I am also a Fire Fighter in the Bay Area, we were dispatched late last night to Oroville, but were quickly canceled.

I just happened upon the news of the evacuation as it was occurring last night. Found the Sacramento, Fox affiliate online and watched mesmerized for an hour. Within minutes every exit road from the towns below the damn were stopped dead with overflow traffic. There were police to help direct but their presence seemed really thin. Reporters were interviewing people through the windows of their cars stopped in traffic. People spoke about leaving with nothing but the clothes they were wearing.
Two things particularly amazed me. No one seemed to have authority to make the highways move in only one direction. One side would be blocked solid with traffic while the other two lanes would be empty for as far as the camera could show. One reporter also described how traffic was flowing well on one state highway until it came into the center of a town where as series of stop lights slowed it to an absolute crawl. They couldn’t reprogram the lights? An evacuation from a supposed immediate danger was forced to stop and wait for lights to change for non-existent traffic at the intersections? It it were not so horrifying it would be the basis for some joke about the stupidity of bureaucrats.
The event woke me from my recent lethargy. Need to have the bug out bags ready, the important papers briefcase updated and ready to grab, the cars always full with three quarters of a tank of gas and, never, ever, rely on the powers that be to tell you the truth. You must constantly view the situation for its own merits and take what steps you think are required without waiting for someone to tell you to move.

Maybe it is helpful to think about this carefully in terms of the interaction between mass psychology/risk perception and response, and the timing and orientation of official government warnings. Seems to me that when the threat is from potential catastrophes that recur within recent memory (I’m thinking hurricanes), the government errs on the side of caution (highly precautionary) regarding evacuation orders. When it’s a relatively novel catastrophe (Teton Dam collapse in Idaho is way out of immediate recall for most), official warnings and responses are highly reactive and comparatively last-minute. Perhaps this is related to some kind of normalcy bias with respect to our collective perceptions of risk. Also, there appears to be cultural resistance in our institutions (and maybe society in general) to any evidence that clearly illustrates fallibility in industrial endeavors.
If so, we could deduce in a really coarse but perhaps helpful way what to expect and what not to expect in terms of official warnings, considering the nature of the impending calamity as it relates to our cultural memory and perceptions.

Does anyone know who built the faulty dam? Left me guess…uncoated rebar concrete.

Good point Chris on how we really have got to do a much better job of building critical infrastructure that lasts. I agree wholeheartedly and you’re correct about the risk from deterioration of rebar-reinforced concrete. Also important is your message about the mainstream press actually contributing to the danger by minimizing risk. I agree again. But I’m thinking that the most obvious, directly applicable message relates to our government’s responsibility to protect the public’s infrastructure through maintenance, inspection, and timely repair. Even the most libertarian may acknowledge that this falls under an area of the ‘commons’ that our Federal government has a responsibility to maintain for all citizens. Of anything that I pay my taxes for, it’s these kinds of things that I value the most because they truly are Federal issues that affect us all. Which brings me to one of Trump’s most idiotic (and that’s saying a lot) actions to date – abolishing two regulations for every new regulation. Many Federal regulations are in place to ensure our infrastructure integrity and protect workers. I’d hate to see the dismantling of regulations that ensure proper licensing for engineers, OSHA safety regulations, mandatory periodic dam inspections, etc. At a time when our infrastructure is getting a ‘D’ rating from the American Society of Civil Engineers, we don’t need the dismantling of the few systems in place that at least attempt to maintain structure integrity and workplace safety.
Just pointing this out because I’ve seen Trump’s move applauded by some on this site. I don’t mean to make this political, just to point out the need to keep our government accountable (and funded) to do those things that it really exists for.

xango wrote:
Just pointing this out because I’ve seen Trump’s move applauded by some on this site. I don’t mean to make this political, just to point out the need to keep our government accountable (and funded) to do those things that it really exists for.
Just curious, how does funding those that do a poor job in the past actually make them more accountable? Too me that seems kind of backwards. How come all those regulations (thousands upon thousands) didn't prevent this issue? Myself, I prefer not to double down on past failed methods, aka the status quo.
xango wrote:
But I’m thinking that the most obvious, directly applicable message relates to our government’s responsibility to protect the public’s infrastructure through maintenance, inspection, and timely repair. Even the most libertarian may acknowledge that this falls under an area of the ‘commons’ that our Federal government has a responsibility to maintain for all citizens.
You are a bit wrong on that front. Libertarian thought is more along the lines of the government should never be building things like this at all. Stealing money to do large projects is not any different than stealing to do small projects. If a dam is viable, it should be viable in the private sector - where you actually would have concern over longevity and not just who get's to claim the project by naming it or putting it on their political resume. If you say, but then things like this wouldn't get done, I would say then maybe people would learn not to build houses in flood plains, or would not over populate areas that are unsustainable (aka Las Vegas, Phoenix, etc). Government distorts what is reasonable because it steals the money as opposed to earning it or getting it voluntarily.

Sacramento County is advising residents in the Tyler Island area south of Walnut Grove to evacuate.
Not related to the Oroville dam issue but points to the issues the region is having with the huge volume of water we are dealing with. More evacuation orders have been issued. More folks to be displaced.