Oroville Dam is the centerpiece and largest water storage facility of the State Water Project. Located about 70 miles north of Sacramento at the Feather River confluence, Oroville Dam creates a reservoir that can hold 3.5 million acre-feet of water.
Features such as a fish barrier dam and pool at Oroville Dam made the SWP one of the first major water projects built with environmental protections as a major consideration.
Besides storing water, the dam also protects downstream residents from the floodprone Feather River—the main feeder of the SWP— and provides major water recreation facilities such as boating, fishing and camping.
[Oroville] Dam operators gradually scaled back water releases to zero over a six-hour period, providing breathing room for construction crews trying to clear debris from a badly choked Feather River channel and restart the dam’s critically needed hydroelectric plant.
For three weeks, Oroville Dam’s fractured main spillway and the surrounding hillsides have taken a nearly nonstop pounding. The stunning waterfall crashing down what’s left of the 3,000-foot concrete span has split the spillway in two and carved massive canyons on either side.
Oroville Dam operators plan to halt water releases from the dam’s battered spillway Monday in order to ramp up efforts to remove a debris pile that’s preventing them from restarting a hydroelectric plant.
As heavy winter storms continue to hammer California, the Legislature is launching a review of dam and levee safety and bracing for major investments necessary to shore up flood control throughout the state.
Nine days ago, with the Oroville Dam under stress and battered by more harsh weather, Gov. Jerry Brown said he had no immediate plans to visit the site, suggesting “I don’t think they need politicians fluttering around.”
Lake Oroville will partially reopen on Thursday, nearly two weeks after more than 180,000 Northern California residents evacuated their homes and the lake area closed due to fears that the emergency spillway at Oroville Dam could fail.
The Department of Water Resources plans to remove at least some of the debris at the bottom of the Oroville Dam spillway and study the structure, but just aren’t sure when they’ll have a chance to do that.
Not far from the main drag through Oroville, a dozen local business owners and city officials faced each other in a hotel lunchroom Tuesday. They sought to begin developing an advertising campaign to transform a barrage of negative images and news reports about frantic efforts to prevent catastrophic flooding into a lucrative tourist attraction, albeit after the Feather River Basin’s rainy season ends in April.
After the state Department of Water Resources reached its goal early Monday morning of lowering the water level at Lake Oroville by 50 feet, officials said heavy rains would likely cause lake levels to rise several feet.
Twelve years ago, widespread destruction from Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast helped compel federal engineers 2,000 miles away in California to remake a 1950s-era dam by constructing a massive steel-and-concrete gutter that would manage surging waters in times of torrential storms.
The badly damaged main concrete spillway at Oroville Dam was pounded by massive volumes of stormwater this month, but its failures occurred well short of the maximum flow that engineers designed the system to handle.
Communities just downstream of California’s Lake Oroville dam would not receive adequate warning or time for evacuations if the 770-foot-tall dam itself – rather than its spillways – were to abruptly fail, the state water agency that operates the nation’s tallest dam repeatedly advised federal regulators a half-decade ago.
Dam experts around the country are focusing on a leading suspect: Tiny bubbles. The prospect is simple, yet terrifying and has been the culprit in a number of near disasters at dams across the globe since engineers discovered about 50 years ago.
Water releases through the damaged main spillway at Oroville Dam were scaled back Thursday to allow crews to reach and remove a pile of debris that has built up at the bottom of that chute, officials said.
Feeling confident they’ve created sufficient empty space in Lake Oroville for the time being, state Department of Water Resources officials said they reduced spillway outflows so they could address another looming challenge: restarting the dam’s hydroelectric plant, which can release additional water when operational.
Jeffrey Mount, a leading expert on California water policy, remembers the last time a crisis at the Oroville Dam seemed likely to prompt reform. It was 1997 and the lake risked overflowing, while levees further downstream failed and several people died.
Rainwater erosion alongside the Oroville Dam’s main spillway appears to have contributed to the heavy damage that prompted a crisis, forcing more than 100,000 to be evacuated from their homes, a report reviewed by The Times showed.
Days before nearly 200,000 people downstream of Lake Oroville were ordered to evacuate because of problems with two spillways at the dam, there were millions of other evacuees – residents of the Feather River Fish Hatchery. … Why all the trouble for some fish? Spring-run Chinook salmon and steelhead are both listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Officials raced to drain more water from a lake behind battered Oroville Dam as new storms began rolling into Northern California on Wednesday and tested the quick repairs made to damaged spillways that raised flood fears.
The critical document that determines how much space should be left in Lake Oroville for flood control during the rainy season hasn’t been updated since 1970, and it uses climatological data and runoff projections so old they don’t account for two of the biggest floods ever to strike the region. … Most recently, the issue of outdated dam manuals came up in the context of California’s five-year drought.
When operators of Oroville Dam suddenly ordered evacuations on Sunday, it focused a big spotlight on a crucial piece of California’s flood-control infrastructure – spillways. … Some of these dams are getting upgrades, albeit slowly.
Work crews repairing Oroville Dam’s damaged emergency spillway are dumping 1,200 tons of rock each hour and using shotcrete to stabilize the hillside slope, an official with the Department of Water Resources told the California Water Commission today.
The pace of work is “round the clock,” said Kasey Schimke, assistant director of DWR’s legislative affairs office.
At churches, fairgrounds and other makeshift shelters, thousands of Californians packed what belongings they had into garbage bags and suitcases to return home Tuesday, two days after they were told to flee the threat of massive flooding from a dam’s damaged spillway.
Six months before rushing water ripped a huge hole in a channel that drains a Northern California reservoir, state inspectors said the concrete spillway was sound. As officials puzzle through how to repair Oroville Dam spillway, federal regulators have ordered the state to figure out what went wrong.
With both spillways badly damaged and a new storm approaching, America’s tallest dam on Tuesday became the site of a desperate operation to fortify the massive structures before they face another major test. … In a sign of the progress made Tuesday, officials downgraded the evacuation order to a warning, allowing all evacuated residents to return home.
President Trump issued major disaster declarations to enable federal funding for California on two fronts — to aid with the Oroville Dam spillway damage and mass evacuations and to help the state deal with the widespread effects of January’s storms.
There’s another storm bearing down on troubled Oroville Dam, set to begin late Wednesday. But state officials say they believe the precipitation will be mild enough – and the reservoir empty enough – to handle this latest challenge.
Shock over the emergency evacuation downriver from the Oroville Dam has given way to serious questions about how California is coping with its aging infrastructure — which the American Society of Civil Engineers says would cost the state a staggering $65 billion per year to fix and maintain after years of neglect.
A huge Northern California reservoir, held in place by a massive dam, has always been central to the life of the towns around it. Now the lake that has brought them holiday fireworks and salmon festivals could bring disaster.
Gov. Jerry Brown asked the Trump administration for a federal disaster declaration for the emergency at Oroville Dam on Monday evening, citing the impending arrival of more storms and the potential need to resort again to the dam’s emergency spillway, which has been severely eroded.
As California waited Monday night to see if President Donald Trump would grant Gov. Jerry Brown’s request for emergency funding for 10,000 evacuees who lived in the shadow of the Oroville Dam, FEMA began preparing for the worse.
California Gov. Jerry Brown, appealing to the Trump administration for direct federal assistance on the Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway, said Monday that he remains encouraged that the state and federal government can work constructively.
Water levels dropped Monday at California’s Lake Oroville, stopping water from spilling over a massive dam’s potentially hazardous emergency spillway after authorities ordered the evacuation of nearly 200,000 people from towns lying below the lake. California Department of Water Resources officials are waiting for the light of dawn to inspect an erosion scar on the spillway at the Oroville Dam, the nation’s largest.
More than a decade ago, federal and state officials and some of California’s largest water agencies rejected concerns that the massive earthen spillway at Oroville Dam — at risk of collapse Sunday night and prompting the evacuation of 185,000 people — could erode during heavy winter rains and cause a catastrophe.
A gaping hole in the spillway for the tallest dam in the United States has grown and California authorities said they expect it will continue eroding as water washes over it but the Oroville Dam and the public are safe.
As storm runoff poured into fast rising Lake Oroville Thursday, the state resumed releases down the reservoir’s damaged spillway, creating dramatic scenes of muddy torrents gushing over the concrete chute.
With stormwater and snowmelt pouring into the reservoir faster than expected, the operator of the crippled Oroville Dam said it was likely water would have to be released from the facility’s emergency spillway as soon as Saturday – a last-ditch alternative that officials had been hoping to avoid.
State engineers gingerly began releasing water again through the damaged Oroville Dam spillway Wednesday in a controlled test to see how much water the scarred facility could handle, as reservoir levels continued to climb behind the critical flood-control structure.
California’s recovery from drought has been so remarkably quick that reservoirs on the verge of record lows just a year ago are now too full to handle more rain, prompting dam operators across the state to unleash surpluses of water not seen in years.
After a few nice days, stormy weather is due to return Wednesday night and stick around into next week. In preparation for that, the Department of Water Resources kicked up releases from Oroville Dam by a third Tuesday afternoon, to make room for runoff in Lake Oroville.
After years of drought, Northern California has so much water that the state’s two largest reservoirs are releasing water to maintain flood-control safety. … Shasta and Oroville are the twin anchors of California’s giant water-delivery networks.
With Lake Oroville rising more than 82 feet this month, the water level is now cutting into the buffer needed for flood control. … Other north state reservoirs have increased their outflows as they encroach on flood control limits.
Explore the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as we learn about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply. All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: The State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.
This 3-day, 2-night tour travels across the Sacramento Valley and follows the river north from Sacramento through Chico to Redding and Lake Shasta, where participants take a houseboat ride.
The last hurdle in relicensing the Oroville Dam facilities may be only a few more months away, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. The agency has been working on a biological opinion to determine how the dam and facilities downstream could impact endangered and threatened fish and other issues.
What’s holding up the relicensing of Oroville Dam facilities? Fish. Specifically, an opinion on how three threatened species might be affected, according to local Department of Water Resources officials.
State officials are estimating that Bidwell Canyon’s three available concrete lanes will close this week when the lake level drops 220 feet below the top of Oroville Dam. The dam is considered full at 900 feet above sea level.
Authorities have recovered thousands of stolen archaeological artifacts reportedly taken from Lake Oroville over the last 20 years. …State regulations, as well as other federal laws, protect items of cultural significance from being removed from public land.
The Water Education Foundation’s popular Northern California Tour features a diverse group of experts talking about groundwater, flood management, the drought, water supplies, agricultural challenges, and the latest on salmon restoration efforts. The tour also includes a houseboat cruise on Lake Shasta. … The tour travels the length of the Sacramento Valley with visits to Oroville and Shasta dams.
This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an excellent overview of climate change and how it is already affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are underway to plan and adapt to climate.
Water as a renewable resource is depicted in this 18×24 inch poster. Water is renewed again and again by the natural hydrologic cycle where water evaporates, transpires from plants, rises to form clouds, and returns to the earth as precipitation. Excellent for elementary school classroom use.
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to California Water provides an excellent overview of the history of water development and use in California. It includes sections on flood management; the state, federal and Colorado River delivery systems; Delta issues; water rights; environmental issues; water quality; and options for stretching the water supply such as water marketing and conjunctive use.
A new look for our most popular product! (A perfect holiday gift for the water work in your life, order by Dec. 19 so it will be shipped in time for Christmas).
Our 24×36 inch California Water Map is widely known for being the definitive poster that shows the integral role water plays in the state. On this updated version it is easier to see California’s natural waterways and manmade reservoirs and aqueducts - including federally, state and locally funded projects - the wild and scenic rivers system, and natural lakes. The map features beautiful photos of California’s natural environment, rivers, water projects, wildlife, and urban and agricultural uses and the text focuses on key issues: water supply, water use, water projects, the Delta, wild and scenic rivers and the Colorado River.
Oroville Dam is the centerpiece of the State Water Project and its largest water storage facility.
Located about 70 miles north of Sacramento at the confluence of the three forks of the Feather River, Oroville Dam is an earthfill dam (consisting of an impervious core surrounded by sands, gravels, and rockfill materials) that creates a reservoir that can hold 3.5 million acre-feet of water.
This printed copy of Western Water examines California’s drought – its impact on water users in the urban and agricultural sector and the steps being taken to prepare for another dry year should it arrive.