Oroville Dam Damage May Reach $13 Billion, 50,000 Homes at Risk

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Now that residents of areas that could be hit by a breach of the Oroville Dam have been evacuated out of harm’s way, one of the largest challenges of a disaster would be property destruction. A new study claims as many as 50,000 homes are at risk and that the damages could cost $13.3 billion.

That is the reconstruction cost value (RCV) of 50,047 single-family and multifamily residential homes that would be obliterated if the dam fails completely, and they are in Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties. Research firm CoreLogic reports:

The majority of homes at risk are between 20 and 60 miles from the dam, totaling 33,967 properties with an estimated RCV of $9.8 billion. Additionally, there are 16,080 homes at risk of damage less than 20 miles from the dam with an estimated RCV of $3.5 billion.


These costs are comparable to estimates for repairs to deficient dams nationwide. According to the LA Times:

A 2016 survey by the Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimated the cost of repairing deficient dams that currently place downstream residents at risk at $22.91 billion. Carrying out that task would take many decades.

The warnings about costs to repair America’s infrastructure have, in some cases, become more urgent.

Figure 1: Total Homes at Risk and Reconstruction Cost Value by County

County Number of Homes Estimated RCV
Butte 15,750 $3,368,371,427
Colusa 2,344 $633,516,296
Glenn 42 $8,202,197
Sutter 25,504 $7,604,338,675
Yolo 262 $64,058,854
Yuba 6,145 $1,584,443,943
TOTAL 50,047 $13,262,931,392