e Oroville Dam has served as a lifeline to California residents for nearly 50 years. But for Butte County, the community situated in its shadow, the dam has been a source of contention and legal battles. Since 2005, conservation groups have also repeatedly told federal officials not to re-license the damn until the emergency spillway was better fortified.
But those warnings went unheeded until Monday, when the spillway began to crumble after storm waters were diverted to lower the level of Lake Oroville, sending 190,000 people scrambling in a mass evacuation. Reuters correspondent Robin Respaut.>> About a decade ago, the county filed a lawsuit against the state's Department of Water Resources claiming that the agency had not effectively assessed the possible outcomes of climate change on the dam.
That lawsuit is now in California's 3rd District Court of Appeals.>> Butte County's problems with the dam are not just about safety but started decades ago when workers came to construct one of the nation's largest infrastructure projects. Ten thousand people moved to Oroville and new low cost homes were built for workers.
But once the dam was completed, many of those homes were abandoned and unemployment spiked, saddling a small community with much of the costs for the dam's protection and maintenance.>> Butte County argues that it has spent millions over the years to police and protect the dam with its Sheriff, public works and other departments.
The county also says that it has missed out on building and collecting tax revenue from the 41,000 acres that is now consumed by Lake Oroville. The county says that it could have collected potentially up to $267 million over 50 years in tax revenue from that land if it had been developed.
>> The dam has played a vital role, collecting and redistributing water in a state, which until last year was facing a severe drought. With more rain in the forecast, emergency construction crews are now working around the clock to protect the residents below, who already feel they've paid a price.