- Associated Press - Friday, February 17, 2017

OROVILLE, Calif. (AP) - California officials further slowed the release of water Friday from a lake behind the nation’s tallest dam so crews can remove debris from the bottom of the structure’s damaged spillway.

Officials had been releasing 100,000 cubic feet of water, or enough to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool, each second from the lake since Sunday, when the sheriff ordered an immediate evacuation for towns downstream from the dam.

The amount being released was reduced to 80,000 cubic feet of water per second late Thursday, and further reduced on Friday. By Saturday, dam managers expect to be releasing 60,000 cubic feet per second, said Bill Croyle, acting director of the Department of Water Resources.

With less water careening down the crippled spillway, construction crews can move in to remove debris that is causing water to pool at the base of the dam.

Clearing debris protects Oroville Dam’s power plant and will allow for it eventually to be restarted, officials have said.

The level of the reservoir has been reduced by 40 feet to accommodate inflow from upcoming storms. Rain fell in the area Friday, with more storms forecast for early next week.

“We have generated a large volume of flood storage space, to the extent we can take on a very large storm,” Croyle said.

Two trails near the damaged spillway remained closed, but the lake’s boat ramps were open.

Nearly 580 inmates hastily evacuated from the Butte County Jail during Sunday’s evacuation are expected to return early next week, Sheriff Kory Honea said. Officials are drawing up plans to securely transport the inmates from the Alameda County Jail, where they’re being temporarily held.

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