As work continues on the Oroville Dam emergency spillway site, the Butte County Sheriff's Department has had some of its attention diverted by unusual distractions — drones and hysteria caused by social media posts.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea says he has fielded several calls from residents who have read alarmist social media posts.
Often the posts refer to so-called expert friends who say there are a variety of emergencies at the dam that aren't being reported.
"When I got those, I immediately contacted (Department of Water Resources Interim) Director Croyle and I said, 'This is what we're hearing. We need to check it out,'" Sheriff Honea says. "And to his credit, he sent people out there to look at the structure and to look at things, assuring me things were as we had represented them earlier."
He also says helicopter pilots have reported several instances of people flying their drones over the spillway sites, interfering with the rock-dropping operation underway at the base of the emergency spillway.
"If you interfere with the air operations, you slow down the progress," Honea says. "That's a threat to public safety. And not only is it a threat to public safety, that is also a no-fly zone.So, my staff will also be looking. If you're in the area, and you're flying drones, we are going to address that and that may result in arrests ..."
Flying a drone in a no-fly zone could lead to $27,500 in fines, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.