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.
Register now for next week’s virtual Northern California
Tour on Oct. 14 to explore the Sacramento River and its
tributaries and learn about issues associated with a key source
for the state’s water supply, including the drought now
gripping California. During the afternoon online event, you’ll
visit rice farms and wetlands in the Sacramento Valley and hear
from farmers and environmentalists about efforts to restore
runs of endangered chinook salmon and help birds along the
Thursday marks the final day of the water year in California,
and it was one for the record books — and not just because much
of the state saw less than 50% of average rainfall.
… California received about 24 inches of water during
the water year that began Oct. 1, 2020, according to the
8-station index. It’s 46% percent of the average, which is
about 51.4 inches and is drier than any of the years that
produced the last prolonged drought that began roughly in 2011.
More than 94 percent of the West is in drought this week,
according to the US Drought Monitor, with six states entirely
in drought status: California, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, and
Montana. Parts of the West saw record-setting rainfall that
brought some slight relief to the region, but most areas remain
dry. Against the backdrop of climate change-fueled drought,
wildfires have charred nearly 6 million acres of vegetation
across the region. Fire experts say that dry and windy
conditions create a prime environment for wildfires to spark
Dangerously low water levels at Shasta Lake were captured on
drone video by ABC10 reporter John Bartell and photojournalist
Tyler Horst on Tuesday. Shasta Lake is California’s
largest reservoir, capable of holding 4,552,000 acre feet of
water. Right now, it has 1,186,057 acre feet of water stored.
Breaking that down into percentages, the reservoir is at 26%
capacity and 42% of average for this date.
Severe droughts are drying up rivers and reservoirs vital for
the production of zero-emissions hydropower in several
countries around the globe, in some cases leading governments
to rely more heavily on fossil fuels. The emerging problems
with hydropower production in places like the United States,
China and Brazil represent what scientists and energy experts
say is going to be a long-term issue … In
California, the State Water Project was forced to shut down a
750-MW hydroelectric power plant at Lake Oroville this month
for the first time since it was built in 1967 because of low
In a year already plagued by the pandemic and wildfires,
Californians are also entangled with the crippling effects of a
drought. For example, the drought has lowered Lake Oroville’s
level to its lowest level in nearly 44 years, impacting
recreation and wildlife. A shuttle boat ferries people back and
forth across Lake Oroville. Now, it’s the only way to get to
the houseboats on the water.
In a year already plagued by pandemic and wildfires,
Californians are also entangled with the crippling effect of
drought. … In 2017, hundreds of thousands of lives were
threatened when massive flooding damaged the Oroville Dam.
Today, changing weather conditions have created a stark
contrast from years ago: Hot temperatures and low rainfall have
left miles of dusty, cracked shorelines exposed.
In a multi-agency meeting on the state of
California’s drought conditions, state officials painted a
broader picture on water allocation, lack of available water
and what the Golden State is facing in the months and years to
come. Officials expect record low water levels across the
state, especially for Oroville and San Luis Reservoir. …
[T]he state is at 58% of average reservoir storage as a whole
for this time of year. … Climatologists say it’s too
early to tell if it’s going to be a wet or dry year during
winter time circulations. A lot of what happens is affected by
the jet stream.
The giant hydropower plant at Lake Oroville shut down in a
historic first Thursday because of the drought, putting
another dent in California’s defense against rolling
blackouts. The state Department of Water Resources said
the Hyatt Powerplant, a fixture at Lake Oroville since the
reservoir was built in the late 1960s, has been taken down
because of low water levels.
A deeply troubled group of high-ranking state officials, tribal
leaders, environmentalists and fishermen met July 27 to discuss
the triple whammy that is threatening some species of Pacific
salmon with extinction — a combination of record-breaking heat,
drought and disastrous federal water policies — particularly
those of the Trump administration, which drained mountain
reservoirs of cold water, sending it to the Central Valley.
Lake Oroville, one of California’s biggest reservoirs, reached
its lowest-ever point this week, breaking a record set decades
ago in the latest troubling sign of the punishing drought
conditions afflicting the state. The lake reached a “new
historic low elevation” of 642.73 feet of water, which is down
from 645 feet in September 1977, said John Yarbrough, assistant
deputy director of the California State Water Project, in a
Lake Oroville reached the lowest levels since September 1977,
measuring below 643.5 feet above sea level at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
For comparison, when Lake Oroville is full, the surface water
level is 900 feet above sea level. Increasing issues are
arising from the low levels being seen at Lake Oroville. The
Edward Hyatt Power Plant may be forced to close down for the
first time in its history due to low lake elevation.
How low can Lake Oroville go? While losing over a foot of water
each day, historically low is the answer. The lake is on track
to beat its lowest recorded record: 645 feet above sea level in
September 1977. Friday, it sits at 646.97 feet, just feet away
from a new record. This could drop dramatically further to 620
feet by late October, according to Molly White, Water
Operations Manager for the Department of Water Resources (DWR).
As drought conditions continue throughout Butte County, the
Department of Water Resources is currently projecting that the
surface water level of Lake Oroville could reach an all-time
low of 620 feet above sea level by October or November. The
lake reached an all-time low of 645 feet above sea level in
September 1977. As of Thursday, Lake Oroville’s surface water
level was 648.47 feet above sea level. When full Lake
Oroville’s surface water level is 900 feet above sea level.
After the two driest consecutive years in much of California in
nearly half a century, reservoir levels are dropping. Lawns are
brown. Water restrictions are increasing. And Californians are
getting worried. Asked to name the environmental issue they are
most concerned about, more California residents cited water
shortages and drought than any other, according to a new poll
released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of
California, a non-partisan research organization in San
Drought-plagued California is poised to bar thousands of
farmers, landowners and others from pumping water from the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed, a move that irrigation
districts said exceeds the water board’s authority. The
emergency rules would be the first time state regulators have
taken such wide-reaching action during a drought to prevent
diversions from the massive Delta watershed stretching from
Fresno to the Oregon border.
The drought is taking its toll on dams and rivers throughout
California and there is no clearer example than at Lake
Oroville where water levels have been dropping all year.
… The Oroville Dam is the state water system’s tallest,
but boaters and fishermen have witnessed the water level fall
nearly 250 feet below average. State water regulators are
required to release water to protect fish downstream. They are
trying to preserve as much water as possible, but levels are
dropping a foot a day.
A major California hydroelectric power plant could soon stop
generating power amid worsening drought conditions. According
to state water officials, the Edward Hyatt Powerplant at Lake
Oroville could go offline as soon as August or September — a
time frame that would coincide with a feared power crunch this
summer. The plant, which opened in the late 1960s, has never
been forced offline by low lake levels before.
As the West descends deeper into drought, climate and water
experts are growing increasingly alarmed by California’s
shriveling reservoirs. Photos of Lake Oroville, Folsom Lake,
Trinity Lake and Lake Shasta, taken by Times photographer Brian
van der Brug using a drone, unveil the harsh reality of the
Golden State’s not-so-golden drought. On Wednesday, Lake Shasta
— the largest reservoir in the state — held a scant 1.55
million acre-feet of water, according to the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation, or about 34% of its capacity.
After two consecutive dry winters and a series of early summer
heat waves, the vast majority of California is gripped by
drought. Water levels in reservoirs like Lake Oroville, Shasta
Lake and Lake Mendocino are dangerously low. Wells in parts of
the San Joaquin Valley and along the Russian River are drying
up, and local water officials have mandated water restrictions
up to 40% in some areas. Already, more
than 85% of California is experiencing extreme
drought conditions … and experts forewarn a third year
of drought could be on the horizon if the state doesn’t see
significant winter rain storms.
The explorer John Wesley Powell once poked fun at the
professional rainmakers of his time, writing, “Years of drought
and famine come and years of flood and famine come, and the
climate is not changed with dance, libation or prayer.” As we
now know, humans can change the climate — one reason the
current drought is so intense, sparking what could be a record
wildfire season and depleting mighty reservoirs such as Mead
and Oroville. Yet as Powell noted, the West can quickly swing
from drought to flood. And it will again — possibly with
greater ferocity than before. -Written by Stuart Leavenworth, California Enterprise
Editor for the LA Times.
California’s reservoirs and rivers are startlingly low, forcing
many of the state’s more than 270 hydropower facilities to
generate less power. Lake Oroville, one of the state’s largest
reservoirs, made headlines because its water levels have
dropped so low the power plant may need to shut down for the
first time. While most other hydropower plants aren’t at risk
of shutting down, plants that rely on watersheds up and down
the state are not able to generate normal amounts of power.
Record-setting heat and drought gripping the western United
States are exposing a potentially severe risk to the nation’s
long-term power supply, and experts warn that grid operators
lack sufficient tools to plan and carry out a defense.
… Persistent drought also threatens power from
hydroelectric dams in the West, a critical resource for
California during extended heat waves. Water levels are so low
at Lake Oroville, California’s second-largest reservoir, that
officials are considering shutting down a hydroelectric plant
Climate change has plunged the Western U.S. into its worst
drought in two decades. And a record-breaking heat wave only
made things worse. In Arizona and Nevada, it’s been so hot that
doctors warned people they could get third-degree burns from
the asphalt. Wildfires raged in Montana and Utah. Power grids
in Texas strained as officials asked residents to limit
appliance use to avoid blackouts. The levels in Lake Mead,
which supplies water for millions of people, are at their
lowest since the 1930s.
In a few weeks, officials say, [Lake Oroville's] water levels
are likely to dip even lower – forcing them to shut down one of
the state’s largest hydroelectric power plants for the first
time since it was built in 1967. Amid a historic megadrought,
the climate crisis and energy crisis in California are about to
collide, and set off a vicious cycle. The state’s diminishing
water supply is cutting down hydropower, and California is
relying more on fossil fuels as extreme summer heat drives up
Water lines on the banks of Lake Oroville in Butte County have
depleted so rapidly that the reservoir’s hydroelectric power
plant may have to shut down for the first time ever, straining
an already encumbered power grid during the hottest part of the
summer, California officials announced Thursday. Since
1967, the Edward Hyatt Power Plant has been a crucial source of
electricity for the area and usually has the capacity to power
up to 800,000 homes, pumping water from the lake through its
underground facilities, according to CNN.
Water in a key California reservoir will fall so low this
summer that its hydroelectric power plant will be forced to
shut down for the first time, officials said Thursday,
straining the state’s already-taxed electric
grid. An unrelenting drought and record
heat, both worsened by the changing climate, have pushed the
water supply at Northern California’s Lake Oroville to deplete
rapidly. As a result of the “alarming levels,” officials will
likely be forced to close the Edward Hyatt Power Plant for the
first time since it opened in 1967…
Water is increasingly scarce in the Western U.S. — where 72
percent of the region is in “severe” drought, 26 percent is in
exceptional drought, and populations are booming. Insufficient
monsoon rains last summer and low snowpacks over the winter
left states like Arizona, Utah and Nevada without the typical
amount of water they need, and forecasts for the rainy summer
season don’t show promise. … The past two decades have been
the driest or the second driest in the last 1,200 years in the
West, posing existential questions about how to secure a
livable future in the region.
Normally at this time of year, workers at Lake Oroville’s two
marinas are preparing for a deluge of visitors eager to spend
the summer lazing on houseboats, zipping across the water on
speed boats or cruising the sprawling lake’s rocky nooks and
coves in search of salmon. But this spring, after two years of
scant rainfall, they’ve pulled about 130 houseboats out of the
shallower reaches of the marinas and are closing boat launch
ramps as the lake recedes, likely to record-low levels by the
fall…Three of the lake’s five boat launch ramps have already
closed, a fourth may close Monday and the last is expected to
be shut down in weeks…
For anyone trying to keep up with the unfolding drought in
California and the West, the Water Education Foundation has
created a special
resource page that offers links to real-time
reservoir data and water supply forecasts, an ongoing
newsfeed to help you stay up to date on the latest news
and tips so you can help conserve the region’s most
precious natural resource.
Instead of being flush with newly melted snow, Folsom Lake is
the driest it’s been in springtime since the epic drought of
1977. Water levels are so low that temporary pumps probably
will be installed to help move water out of the stricken
reservoir. Water levels at Lake Oroville have plunged to
the point that its giant hydropower plant could be idled for
the first time ever this summer … [C]onditions are so
bad that major cities are drawing up conservation plans,
farmers have scaled back plantings and environmentalists are
angrily warning of massive fish kills.
The lack of Sierra snowmelt has significantly reduced the size
of Folsom Lake. It’s 68 feet lower that it was last year, the
equivalent of a five-story building. Only one of the
lake’s 13 boat ramps was open over Memorial Day
Weekend. … Besides the lack of snowfall, the ground
has become so dry that, as the snowpack melts, it’s absorbed
into the ground instead of going in the reservoir.
Back when it first happened, we covered the Oroville Dam
near-disaster. Heavier-than-expected rainfall in California
back in early 2017 led to running the dam’s primary spillway at
much higher-than-normal levels. February 17, 2017, the
operators noticed something odd about the water flow down the
spillway, and when they turned off water flowing down the
spillway, it was made obvious that they had a major problem on
their hands. Several chunks of concrete were missing, and the
water had begun gouging into the earth beneath the spillway.
Severe drought — largely connected to climate change — is
ravaging … the entire Western half of the United States, from
the Pacific Coast, across the Great Basin and desert Southwest,
and up through the Rockies to the Northern Plains. In
California, wells are drying up, forcing some homeowners to
drill new ones that are deeper and costlier. Lake Mead, on the
border of Arizona and Nevada, is so drained of Colorado River
water that the two states are facing the eventual possibility
of cuts in their supply.
California — already in the clutches of another drought
emergency — is looking over its shoulder at what happened
last time, anticipating the worst and evaluating the strategies
that worked and those that failed. So is California in a
better position to weather this drought? Some things are
worse, some better: Groundwater is still being pumped with no
statewide limits, siphoning up drinking water that rural
communities rely on. In northern counties, residents are
reliving the last disaster as water restrictions kick in again,
but in the south, enough water is stored to avoid them for now.
… The upshot is California isn’t ready — again.
During a typical spring, the silver young salmon swimming in
long tanks at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery east of Sacramento would
be released into the American River and then make their way out
to the Pacific Ocean to grow to adulthood. But with extreme
drought now gripping California and much of West Coast, the
rivers are too warm for the salmon to survive. This week, the
3.5-inch (90-mm) smolt, as the young fish are known, embarked
on a much different journey when they were loaded on to trucks
and driven to the San Francisco Bay for release into cooler
Don’t be fooled. Governor Gavin Newsom’s decision Monday to
declare drought in most of California, including here, is no
reason for most farmers in Stanislaus County to break out the
party hats. They know full well that words on a declaration
will not generate an extra drop of water for their orchards and
row crops. They also know that a drought declaration could take
some power over the water we do have from our locally elected
irrigation leaders — who represent institutions guiding us
through periodic droughts for more than 100 years — and hand it
to nonelected Sacramento bureaucrats.
California is in the second year of a drought. Governor Newsom
this week made his first drought declaration. Just how dry is
this drought, so far? What are some likely
implications? And what might State and local governments
do about it?
The Yuba Water Agency manages water storage and deliveries to
downstream customers while having a hand in preserving fish
habitats and recreational areas. Currently, the agency has
already begun doubling its reservoir releases at a time when
visitors to the river are also expected to go up. Due to
the time of year, those releases from upstream reservoirs are
dictated by irrigation needs of downstream growers.
On Wednesday, March 3rd, the Northern California Water
Association (NCWA) Board of Directors officially adopted our
2021 Priorities. The water leaders in this region look forward
to working with our many partners in 2021 to cultivate a shared
vision for a vibrant way of life in the Sacramento River Basin.
We will continue to re-imagine our water system in the
Sacramento River Basin as we also work to harmonize our water
priorities with state, federal, and other regions’ priorities
to advance our collective goal of ensuring greater water and
climate resilience throughout California for our communities,
the economy, and the environment.
[C]onsider the following scenarios: A hurricane blasts Florida.
A California dam bursts because floods have piled water high up
behind it. A sudden, record-setting cold snap cuts power to the
entire state of Texas. These are also emergencies that require
immediate action. Multiply these situations worldwide, and you
have the biggest environmental emergency to beset the earth in
millennia: climate change. Given the circumstances, Scientific
American has agreed with major news outlets worldwide to start
using the term “climate emergency” in its coverage of climate
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack designated 50 California
counties as natural disaster areas last month because of the
drought. And, over the weekend, Fresno Congressman Jim Costa
said on KSEE-24’s Sunday Morning Matters program that Gov.
Newsom should declare a statewide emergency because of the
dangerously dry conditions. …Yet, Newsom… last week
rejected a request from a bipartisan coalition of state
lawmakers from the Valley to declare a statewide drought
California’s hottest commodity could become even more scarce as
state and federal officials announce water cutbacks on the
brink of another drought. Now, state legislators are banding
together to ask Governor Newsom to declare a state of emergency
amid what they call a water crisis. … [State Senator Andreas]
Borgeas authored a letter alongside the Assembly agriculture
committee chair and several other state lawmakers to send to
the governor. This comes after the California Department of
Water Resources announced a 5% allocation to farmers and
growers in late March.
San Francisco Bay’s life support systems are unravelling
quickly, and a wealth of science indicates that unsustainable
water diversions are driving this estuary’s demise. Yet,
with another drought looming, federal and state water managers
still plan to divert large amounts of water to their
contractors and drain upstream reservoirs this summer.
Meanwhile, the state’s most powerful water districts are
preparing yet another proposal to maintain excessive water
diversions for the long-term. By delaying reforms that the
law requires and that science indicates are necessary, Gov.
Gavin Newsom encourages wasteful water practices that
jeopardize the Bay and make the state’s water future
precarious. -Written by Jon Rosenfield, a senior scientist for SF
Updated water supply allocations announced last week would
still drain upstream reservoirs in order to deliver 4.5 million
acre feet of water to the contractors of the federal Central
Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP), devastating
fish and wildlife. This week, the fisheries biologists at the
National Marine Fisheries Service projected that these planned
operations are likely to result in lethal water temperatures
that will kill 89% of endangered winter-run Chinook salmon
below Shasta Dam this year. This mortality estimate is even
worse than what was observed in 2014 and 2015, when salmon
populations were devastated by warm water in their spawning
State and federal water officials have delivered their most
dire warning yet of California’s deepening drought, announcing
that water supply shortages are imminent and calling for quick
conservation. Among a handful of drastic actions this week, the
powerful State Water Board on Monday began sending notices to
California’s 40,000 water users, from small farms to big cities
like San Francisco, telling them to brace for cuts. It’s a
preliminary step before the possibility of ordering their water
draws to stop entirely.
If you were around here in 2014 or 2015, you were likely
inundated with images of dried up reservoirs that looked like
dirt canyons with little ponds in them, when a punishing
drought forced the state to institute restrictions on water
usage. Well, we’re likely headed for another summer of dried-up
lawns (and wildfires) if Mother Nature continues to withhold
the rain and snow that we need to make up for a super-dry
November, December, and February.
We’re facing another very dry year, which follows one of the
driest on record for Northern California and one of the hottest
on record statewide. The 2012-16 drought caused
unprecedented stress to California’s ecosystems and pushed many
native species to the brink of extinction, disrupting water
management throughout the state. Are we ready to manage
our freshwater ecosystems through another drought? -Written by Jeffrey Mount, senior fellow,
and Caitrin Chappelle, associate director, at
the Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy
As March begins to drag on with little precipitation in the
forecast and few weeks left in California’s traditional wet
season, we are in another dry year. This is California’s second
dry year in a row since the 2012-2016 drought.
Statistically, California has the most drought and flood years
per average year than anywhere in the US. This
statistical fact seems to becoming increasingly extreme, as
predicted by many climate change models.
Dwindling Chinook salmon runs have forced the Pacific Fishery
Management Council to shorten the commercial salmon fishing
season. The Sacramento Valley fall-run Chinook salmon runs are
projected to be half as abundant as the 2020 season while the
Klamath River fall Chinook abundance forecast is slightly
higher than the 2020 but is still significantly lower than the
long-term average. During a press briefing on Friday morning,
John McManus President of the Golden State Salmon Association
said the added restrictions will deal a blow to commercial
The forested watersheds of the Sierra Nevada are the origin of
more than 60 percent of the state’s developed water supply.
Sierra Nevada megafires that kill all, or nearly all,
vegetation across large landscapes pose serious risks to this
system. In the immediate aftermath of a fire, high-severity
burn areas lack vegetation to stabilize soils. … The
resulting sediment enters nearby creeks and rivers, degrading
water quality and adversely affecting regional aquatic
On the tail end of the second dry winter in a row, with water
almost certain to be in short supply this summer, California
water officials are apparently planning to largely drain the
equivalent of the state’s two largest reservoirs to satisfy the
thirst of water-wasting farmers. Gov. Gavin Newsom must stop
this irresponsible plan, which threatens the environmental
health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the water supply
for about one-third of the Bay Area residents. We should be
saving water, not wasting it.
Water levels in the world’s ponds, lakes and human-managed
reservoirs rise and fall from season to season. But until now,
it has been difficult to parse out exactly how much of that
variation is caused by humans as opposed to natural cycles.
Analysis of new satellite data published March 3 in Nature
shows fully 57 percent of the seasonal variability in Earth’s
surface water storage now occurs in dammed reservoirs and other
water bodies managed by people. … The western United
States, southern Africa and the Middle East rank among regions
with the highest reservoir variability, averaging 6.5 feet to
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave America’s
infrastructure a C- grade in its quadrennial assessment issued
March 3. ASCE gave the nation’s flood control infrastructure –
dams and levees – a D grade. This is a highly concerning
assessment, given that climate change is increasingly stressing
dams and levees as increased evaporation from the oceans drives
heavier precipitation events. … Climate scientists at
Stanford University found that between 1988 and 2017, heavier
precipitation accounted for more than one-third of the $200
billion in [flood] damage…
California will face another critically dry year, and residents
will need to adapt quickly to cope with water shortages and a
warmer, drier climate that has helped fuel destructive
wildfires. Officials with the state’s department of water
resources announced on Tuesday they had found that the water
content of the overall snowpack for 2 March amounted to 61% of
the average. The state’s largest reservoirs were storing
between 38% and 68% of their capacity, officials said, meaning
that the state would have a lot less water to carry it through
the rest of the year.
The winter storms that dumped heavy snow and rain
across California early in 2021 are likely not enough to negate
what will be a critically dry year, state water officials
believe. California’s Department of Water Resources on
Tuesday recorded a snow depth of 56 inches and water content of
21 inches at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada. The water
content of the overall snowpack was 61% of the average for
March 2 and 54% of the average for April 1, when it is
historically at its maximum.
The Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Water Resources
plan to allocate approximately 5 million acre feet of water
this year – as long as California allows them to effectively
drain the two largest reservoirs in the state, potentially
killing most or nearly all the endangered winter-run Chinook
salmon this year, threatening the state’s resilience to
continued dry conditions, and maybe even violating water
quality standards in the Delta.
The process to recoup over $1 billion in repairs to Oroville
Dam’s spillways after the 2017 crisis is receiving more federal
funds. The Department of Water Resources announced Feb. 1 that
the Federal Emergency Management Agency released an additional
approximately $308 million in requested funds for the Oroville
Dam spillways reconstruction and emergency response. These
funds are in addition to over $260 million that FEMA has
already committed to …
Although the 1971 San Fernando earthquake and the near failure
of the Lower Van Norman Dam have given rise to construction
improvements … the overwhelming majority of California dams
are decades past their design life span. And while earthquakes
still loom as the greatest threat to California’s massive
collection of dams, experts warn that these aging structures
will be challenged further by a new and emerging hazard:
“whiplashing shifts” in extreme weather due to climate change.
California Water Service (Cal Water) has announced temporary
leadership changes for its Oroville District. Evan Markey has
been named Interim District Manager, while previous District
Manager George Barber is serving as Interim Director of Field
Operations for the utility’s northern California region. Tavis
Beynon will continue to serve as the Interim District Manager
for the Chico District.
Tens of thousands of large dams across the globe are reaching
the end of their expected lifespans, leading to a dramatic rise
in failures and collapses, a new UN study finds. These
deteriorating structures pose a serious threat to hundreds of
millions of people living downstream…. In 2017, a
spillway collapsed at the 50-year-old Oroville Dam in
California’s Sierra Nevada foothills. It caused the evacuation
of around 180,000 people. The 770-foot dam is the highest in
the U.S. and, after repairs to the spillway, remains critical
to the state’s water supply.
The California Department of Water Resources has secured $308
million in funding to pay for reconstruction and repair work
that has been done on the Oroville Dam’s spillways. The funds,
released by FEMA, are in addition to the $260 million that the
agency provided for repairs on the lower portion of the dam’s
main spillway. Repair work on the damaged emergency and main
spillways has been ongoing for nearly four years following
February 2017’s spillway crisis. The $308 million announced
Monday was at first rejected but later approved by FEMA
following an appeal from the DWR last year.
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) completed its yearly
post-holiday tradition of recycling Christmas trees into prime
habitat for fish species at Lake Oroville and the Thermalito
Afterbay. DWR’s Oroville Field Division and their local
partners collect the trees and bundle them together as habitat
structures that provide juvenile fish shelter to conceal
themselves from predators. Providing these small fish with safe
refuge areas boosts their chance of survival, thereby
increasing fish populations in Lake Oroville and the Thermalito
Has California overshot the runway? … There was a time
when our dams and aqueducts that allowed us to change the
course plotted by nature by not letting water be restricted to
water basins by physical barriers were considered a candidate
for of their wonders of the world. When it came to freeways, we
were the envy of the land. That was then and this is now. The
list of aging infrastructure that needs addressing is
Known as an engineering expert, water community leader, and
champion of the State Water Project (SWP), former
Department of Water Resources Director William
Gianelli served as DWRs third director from 1967 to 1973
and dedicated more than 30 years to public service in both the
state and federal government. (Gianelli also was one of the
founders of the Water Education Foundation, its second
president and the namesake of the Foundation’s Water Leaders
The consolidated Oroville Spillway cases are currently
scheduled to go to trial in April of 2021. A large judgement
for monetary damages could potentially bankrupt the State Water
Project, according to filings by the Department of Water
The Department of Water Resources recently published a summary
report of a comprehensive needs assessment of safety at
Oroville Dam. It comes after the reconstruction of the
spillways that were damaged and failed in 2017.
A 19-month study of the safety of the Oroville Dam project has
found no “unacceptable risks.” The Department of Water
Resources released its Comprehensive Needs Assessment on Oct.
30, and notes its findings generally agree with those of an
Independent Review Board and a regular five-year review by the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission…
A team of experts released their findings Monday, concluding
that no urgent repairs are needed right now on the Oroville
Dam. The report goes on to say that the largest earthen dam in
America is safe to operate. However, the Oroville Dam is not
completely in the clear.
In a review of Feather River fall-run Chinook salmon in
September 2019, I described their status through the 2018 run
and expressed optimism for the 2019 run. My assessment proved
overly optimistic, as the 2019 run numbers came in lower than
expected. The lower-than-expected returns appear to be the
consequence of the 2017 Oroville Dam spillway failures.
The North Complex Fire has burned a large portion of Lake
Oroville’s watershed. This could lead to hazardous water
quality after winter rains run all of that sediment into the
lake and the effects could last decades. However, how water
quality could be affected by the fire is still largely unknown.
A lot of area surrounding Lake Oroville that is sitting within
the Lake Oroville State Recreation Area was burned by the Bear
Fire, also known as the North Complex West Zone. … The
Department of Water Resources continues to monitor the fire and
is actively working with CAL FIRE, local law enforcement, and
California State Parks to ensure employee and public safety.
DWR’s water delivery and other critical operations are ongoing
with essential staff on site.
Less than two years after the most destructive fire in
California history tore through Paradise, the same region was
under siege from a second monster firestorm that quickly grew
to more than 250,000 acres, sweeping through mountain hamlets
and killing at least three people. … Across the state, 28
major wildfires have prompted more than 64,000 people to
Nearly 200,000 people were evacuated when the spillways failed
at Oroville Dam in 2017, an infrastructure disaster that cost
around a billion dollars to repair. Three years later
scientists say events that partially led to the incident could
become more frequent. It comes down to how and when snow and
What was extraordinary was the unusually deep snow recorded in
the northern Sierra Nevada mountains before the storm event.
Subsequently, several records were set for how much snowmelt
occurred during the atmospheric river. The melt took place
because of unusually warm and wet conditions, and it increased
water available for runoff by 37 percent over rain alone,
straining the capacity of California’s second-largest
There can be little argument that many of the more than 90,000
dams in this country are in need of immediate attention. The
catastrophic failure of two dams in Michigan last month
following an extraordinary amount of rain in a relatively short
period, highlights a number of issues:
The rough dirt and ragged rocks at the Riverbend Park’s
waterfront will soon be replaced with a smooth beach to restore
the one that was swept away by flooding. Construction began
earlier this week to restore the beach that was washed away by
the severe floods caused by the Oroville Dam Spillway crisis.
The Oroville Dam Spillways Reconstruction Project and
Department of Water Resources State Water Project Deputy
Director Ted Craddock, were recognized by the American Society
of Civil Engineers (ASCE) with the Outstanding Projects and
Leaders (OPAL) awards in Washington, D.C.
In February 2017, damage to the Oroville Dam’s spillways
prompted the evacuation of more than 180,000 people living
downstream along the Feather River. The raging muddy waters
also triggered an emergency decision to relocate millions of
young salmon from the Feather River Hatchery to the Thermalito
Annex Hatchery to be raised and held until river water
conditions improved. … Those fish survived and were later
released to the wild – helping fuel a record class salmon
harvest in the ocean two years later.
Cindy Messer considers one of her greatest professional
accomplishments also the toughest experience in her 23-year
career. Messer was sworn in as chief deputy director of the
California Department of Water Resources the day after the
Oroville Dam crisis began in February 2017… But within
months, her boss retired, and she became acting interim
director for the recovery phase.
The state Department of Water Resources said Thursday the
Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed to cover
approximately $300 million in repair costs the agency had
previously denied. … All told, the state now expects to be
reimbursed for approximately $750 million of the $1.1 billion
cost of the crisis…
What started as a small hole on the Oroville Dam main spillway
led to massive erosion and a potentially catastrophic event as
more than 180,000 people were evacuated near Lake Oroville and
downstream along the Feather River in February 2017. It’s been
three years since that hole was first spotted.
Department of Water Resources is preparing Oroville Dam’s
primary spillway for use this winter season. The reconstructed
spillway was completed this spring and used for the first time
in April since the 2017 spillway crisis threatened 188,000
The Feather River Recovery Alliance has filed a motion to
intervene with the Department of Water Resources’ pending
application to re-license operation of the Oroville Dam. …
The motion requests that the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission reopen the licensing process that was conducted over
a decade ago, and prior to the community becoming aware of
safety concerns at the Oroville Dam.
Rather than physically move water hundreds of kilometers across
earthquake country between Northern California and San
Bernardino, the plan involves reallocating water virtually,
just as you would electronically transfer funds from one bank
account to another. Once the Chino Basin Program is
operational, in times of drought the southern region can draw
water from the new reserve instead of from the State Water
Project… That will mean water impounded by Oroville Dam can
be released into the Feather River, benefitting endangered
The California Department of Water Resources announced an
initial State Water Project allocation of 10% for the 2020
calendar year. According to a DWR announcement, the initial
allocation is based on several factors, such as conservative
dry hydrology, reservoir storage, and releases necessary to
meet water supply and environmental demands.
There were questions about the gates that release the water
from Lake Oroville, even before the spillways broke up in
February 2017. Those questions never really got answered. The
focus was on fixing the obvious damage. We could get around to
talking about the gates after that. Maybe.
Despite increased maintenance of Oroville Dam since the
spillway fell apart in February 2017, members of the
community-led Oroville Dam Ad Hoc Group have expressed concern
about the age and wear of mechanics within the spillway’s main
gates, citing similar failures on dams of the same era.
The American Society of Civil Engineers has recognized the
Oroville Dam rebuild as one of 10 outstanding civil engineering
projects. Two runners-up and a winner will be chosen at the
2020 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement gala in
Washington D.C. on March 13.
The latest public relations effort cost California water
ratepayers $29,000 to produce an eight-page color advertising
insert that ran in recent days in six Sacramento Valley
newspapers including The Sacramento Bee. … Critics argue it’s
inappropriate for a state agency to be spending public money on
an advertisement that they say serves little purpose other than
to try to make the government look good.
The state Department of Water Resources and Butte County
announced the settlement Tuesday, more than two years after
spillways at the Oroville Dam crumbled and fell away during
heavy rains. The repairs resulted in heavy truck traffic that
damaged Butte County roads. Butte County sued in August 2018.
The California Department of Water Resources still has
unfinished business at Lake Oroville, despite completion of
major construction on the spillways earlier this year following
the 2017 events that triggered more than 180,000 people living
downstream to evacuate.
The deadliest and most destructive
wildfire in California history had a severe impact on the water
system in the town of Paradise. Participants on our Oct. 2-4
Tour will hear from Kevin Phillips, general manager of
Paradise Irrigation District, on the scope of the damages, the
obstacles to recovery and the future of the water district.
The Camp Fire destroyed 90 percent of the structures in Paradise,
and 90 percent of the irrigation district’s ratepayer base. The
fire did not destroy the irrigation district’s water storage or
treatment facilities, but it did melt plastic pipes, releasing
contaminants into parts of the system and prompting do-not-drink
advisories to water customers.
When the salmon are healthy, the world is healthy. That means
the waters are clean and fast-running and the bottom gravel is
clean. It means the rivers … are pouring as they should into
our oceans, bringing nutrients and sediments into the salt- and
Steven and Cindy Bolt couldn’t have been happier. For the first
time since February of 2017 and the Oroville Dam spillway
crisis they could launch their houseboat from the spillway’s
boat ramp. “It’s been our favorite place to come,” said Cindy.
“And it’s been a long time.”
The Lake Oroville Dam spillway boat ramp will officially reopen
to the public (at least, on a partial basis) on Friday — more
than two and a half years after it was closed in the aftermath
of the spillway incident in February 2017.
In the appeal, DWR included updated reimbursement requests
totaling an estimated $1.11 billion to cover costs of the
Oroville spillways emergency response and emergency recovery
efforts. Final costs won’t be known until all project work is
complete, according to DWR officials.
It’s not unusual to spot the national bird flying around Lake
Oroville every summer. What’s unusual this year is the amount
currently calling Lake Oroville home. Environmental scientists
from the Department of Water Resources Oroville Field Division
are keeping an eye on seven nesting pairs of bald eagles, four
of which are successfully raising a total of eight young
It is a telling illustration of the precarious state of United
States dams that the near-collapse in February 2017 of Oroville
Dam, the nation’s tallest, occurred in California, considered
one of the nation’s leading states in dam safety management.
In 2016 California’s rainy season kicked off right on schedule,
at the beginning of October. … By February there was so much
water filling Northern California’s rivers that Oroville Dam,
the tallest in the country, threatened to break after its
spillway and emergency spillways both failed. It was a wake-up
call. In just a few months California had gone from
five-year-drought to deluge, ending up with the second wettest
year on record for the state.
On the last Saturday in June, a road in Butte County was
opened. That in itself isn’t anything unusual. Roads are opened
and closed regularly around here. But it was the significance
of this road that makes it a remarkable occurrence. It was the
road over Oroville Dam.
Oroville Dam is officially back open to the public two years
after it was forced to close due to the failure of the dam’s
main and emergency spillways. People can now walk and bike the
more than one-mile-long road across the dam crest. Public
vehicles will still not be allowed.
There are more concerns over lake levels in Oroville as Butte
County leaders take initiative to explore alternative options
for safety measures. The Department of Water Resources (DWR), a
leg of the State Water Project, manages the Oroville Dam. On
Wednesday, DWR officials remained adamant in saying they have
no plans to release water from the Oroville Dam spillway.
Well, apparently we’re all about to die again. The internet
says so. And while the internet often says we’re all about to
die, and we don’t, for some reason people still unquestionably
believe the next scare to come down the information highway. So
it is with the latest local scare, involving the Oroville Dam
Specifically, the Feather River Recovery Alliance is asking
FERC to not reissue a license to the state Department of Water
Resources to operate the Oroville Dam until terms of the
agreement are renegotiated, including a new recreation plan.
The group says it received 6,469 local signatures on the
It worked. Oroville Dam’s main flood-control spillway reopened
for business Tuesday morning, releasing a gentle sheet of water
into the Feather River for the first time since the 2017 crisis
that sent 188,000 people fleeing for their lives. … It was a
far cry from the scene two years ago, when the massive sinkhole
in the spillway turned water releases into an angry, boiling
Officials predict they might need to open the gates to move
water that accumulated during the wet winter season from the
reservoir down into the Feather River. … Amy Rechenmacher, an
associate professor of engineering practice at USC, said the
spillway’s use is going to be a big test for the agency and
engineers who worked on the project.
Water may cascade down Oroville Dam’s rebuilt spillway next
week for the first time since a massive crater formed in its
nearly half-mile long surface two years ago — a major milestone
in the saga that triggered the evacuation of 188,000 people and
a $1.1 billion repair job to the country’s tallest dam. A storm
forecast to hit this week is expected to fill Lake Oroville to
the point that state dam operators might need to open the
An engineer with 20-plus years experience working on dams fears
the Oroville dam could be in trouble again. He says the same
problem which led to the failure of the main spillway in 2017
is still happening. … Now, expert Scott Cahill told News
Radio KFBK, water can be seen seeping from the foot of the dam
and dozens of points along the new spillway.
FEMA said that a wide range of pre-existing problems
contributed to the deterioration of both the upper and lower
sections of the massive concrete spillway. The agency argues
that federal law, regulations and policy restrict payments only
to work needed to fix damage stemming from a declared disaster.
Dozens of computer coding teams from around San Joaquin County
were tasked to create an app in roughly seven hours. The issue:
following the destruction caused by the malfunction of the
Oroville Dam in February 2017 and the evacuation of more than
180,000 people, could there be an app that can track dam
leakage, seismic activity and other structural impacts and
communicate with the appropriate individuals to help deter
Blockbuster claims in a lawsuit that a racist, sexist, corrupt
culture contributed to the near-catastrophic failure of
Oroville Dam two years ago can go forward, a Sacramento judge
ruled Thursday. The decision … sets the stage for what
plaintiffs’ attorneys vow will be a deep dive into claims of a
poisonous work culture that nearly disastrously compromised the
nation’s tallest dam.
California’s state water agency is set to appeal a federal
determination that some of the Oroville Dam’s reconstruction
costs are ineligible for reimbursement. The Federal Emergency
Management Agency last week approved an additional $205 million
for the project, on top of the $128.4 million it sent last
year, according to the state Department of Water Resources. But
FEMA officials told the state they likely won’t fund some
portions of the 2-year, estimated $1.1 billion rebuilding
effort that followed the Oroville Dam’s near-failure in
Millions of Californians could end up with higher water bills
after the Trump administration on Friday announced that federal
emergency officials aren’t going to reimburse the state for
$306 million in repairs to Oroville Dam stemming from the 2017
spillway crisis. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said
federal taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for problems that
existed prior to a massive hole forming in the dam’s concrete
spillway in February 2017…
The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved $205 million
to reimburse California for the Oroville Dam spillway
reconstruction costs, the state Department of Water Resources
announced Thursday. … However, FEMA has notified DWR that it
doesn’t think some of the reconstruction costs are eligible for
Water is starting to seep down the rebuilt Oroville Dam
spillway. California Department of Water Resources officials
said Wednesday this is common and will not affect the operation
of the dam’s gates, which are not watertight. … Both
spillways at the 770-foot earthen dam, the nation’s tallest,
collapsed in February 2017, forcing nearly 200,000 people
downstream to evacuate.
This past December, DWR reconnected electricity to the Ronald
B. Robie Thermalito Pumping-Generating Plant in Oroville, a
major step towards returning the plant to full operation. A
fire in November 2012 destroyed the plant’s operating capacity,
requiring closure of the facility and its disconnection from
the state’s electrical grid. …
Lake Oroville, currently at 773-foot elevation, could rise to
780-785 feet by the end of the month based on current
projections. DWR and crews with Kiewit Infrastructure West Co.,
the contractor for the spillways construction project, would
remove equipment from the main spillway if the lake elevation
reached 780 feet.
Major dams in California are five times more likely to flood
this century than the last one due to global warming, a new
study finds, possibly leading to overtopping and catastrophic
failures that threaten costly repairs and evacuations. That
means Californians can expect more disasters like the Oroville
Dam, whose overflow channel failed in 2017 after days of
flooding had filled state reservoirs to 85% of their capacity.
Lawyers representing the state Department of Water Resources
will make their case Friday for striking portions of lawsuits
over the spillway crisis filed by the city of Oroville, several
farms, businesses and other plaintiffs. The state is arguing
that certain “inflammatory and irrelevant” allegations should
be removed from the lawsuits, including allegations about
racist actions, sexual harassment and petty theft by DWR
employees and conspiracy to cover up or destroy documents.
Thursday marks two years since the first hole opened up in the
Oroville Dam Spillway, triggering an emergency that forced the
evacuation of nearly 200,000 people. … The new emergency
spillway is covered with roller-compacted concrete that looks
like a giant staircase. It is one of the biggest changes during
the reconstruction of the spillway project.
Workers were patching Oroville Dam’s weathered concrete
spillway, nearly four years before a massive crater would tear
it open. Michael Hopkins, an employee at the Department of
Water Resources, alleges he saw something he would never
forget. A legally deaf woman was assigned to drive a truck
down the spillway and listen for hollow sounds in the concrete
as her colleagues performed what’s known as “chain drag
testing,” Hopkins wrote in a declaration filed last week in
Sacramento Superior Court.
Several areas of the Oroville Dam and lake are undergoing
extensive renovations and improvements, and the Oroville
Recreation Advisory Committee met Friday to hear reports from
the various member organizations overseeing them.
… Aaron Wright of the California Department of Parks and
Recreation said that several of the recently reopened areas
near the dam have received a good amount of traffic.
The earthquakes hit just days after last year’s
near-catastrophe at Oroville Dam, when the spillway cracked
amid heavy rains and 188,000 people fled in fear of flooding.
The timing of the two small tremors about 75 miles north of
Sacramento was curious, and frightening.
The new year will mark a half-century since a “seismic” shift
in geology unfolded. Eldridge Moores was a key thinker in that
shift. … I [Craig Miller] got another dose of that
enduring youthfulness two years ago, chasing after him as he
led me – at a brisk pace — down to the Yuba River bank.
We were in search of the kind of “incompetent” rock that
contributed to the catastrophic collapse of two spillways at
Dam inspectors overlooked technical details during safety
evaluations that could have identified structural problems with
the Oroville Dam spillway before it broke during heavy rains in
February 2017, according to an assessment ordered by the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FERC assembled an
independent, six-person panel to assess the safety inspections
that are required every five years for the roughly 2,500
hydropower facilities that FERC regulates.
Employees of the state Department of Water Resources, with the
help of firefighting crews, were cutting brush and watering
down landscapes around Lake Oroville to prevent the
117,000-acre blaze from damaging the reservoir’s
infrastructure, including the 770-foot-tall Oroville Dam.
A trial date has been set to hear several lawsuits against the
state Department of Water Resources over the Oroville Dam
crisis. The court scheduled the trial for June 1, 2020 during
the second case management conference Friday in the Sacramento
County Superior Court.
Federal regulators are raising new concerns about the troubled
Oroville Dam, telling California officials their recently
rebuilt flood-control spillways likely couldn’t handle a
mega-flood. Although the chances of such a disastrous storm are
considered extremely unlikely — the magnitude of flooding in
the federal warning is far greater than anything ever
experienced — national dam safety experts say the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission’s concerns could have costly
repercussions for California.
State officials said Wednesday the damaged Oroville Dam
flood-control spillway is ready for the rainy season, and will
be able to fully blast water down its half-mile long concrete
chute for the first time in nearly two years if lake levels
rise. Work on the adjacent emergency spillway is ongoing.
A request from the state Department of Water Resources to
temporarily make more than 50 miles of trails in Oroville open
to multiple user groups has been denied by the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission. DWR proposed this with backing from the
Oroville Recreation Advisory Committee, or ORAC, as a
compensation for trail closures as a result of the 2017
Oroville Dam spillway emergency.
This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries
through a scenic landscape as participants learned 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. Tour
participants got an on-site update of Oroville Dam spillway
The state Department of Water Resources still expects to meet
its quickly approaching Nov. 1 deadline to have all concrete
placed on the Oroville Dam’s main spillway. Crews began by
placing permanent concrete slabs at the bottom of the spillway
of the nation’s tallest dam, making their way to the top. Now,
the upper chute is about three-quarters of the way complete,
DWR reported in a moderated media call on Wednesday.
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law Sen. Jim Nielsen’s bill to
form a citizens advisory commission for the Oroville Dam.
Senate Bill 955 creates a 19-member commission to provide a
forum for residents and state officials to discuss reports,
maintenance and other ongoing issues related to the dam.
Fixing the Oroville Dam spillway wrecked by storms in 2017 will
cost $1.1 billion — a $455-million hike from initial estimates
— the state Department of Water Resources announced Wednesday.
The swelling cost can be blamed on design changes that have
been made over the last 16 months and damage to the facility
near Oroville, Calif., that was far more extensive than
initially presumed, the department said.
The north side of the Oroville Dam Diversion Pool will be open
to hikers and bicycles for the Labor Day weekend, and the pool
itself will be open for kayakers. … On Saturday from 8
a.m. to noon, a walk guided by State Parks staff will explore
vestiges of pioneer settlements, grandiose Gold Rush schemes,
and the train tunnel during the construction of the dam, as
well as native plants and animals seen along the way.
Butte County has filed another lawsuit against the state
Department of Water Resources, this time for damages from the
Oroville Dam crisis that continue to increase. The county is
seeking compensation for damage to its roads, which heavy
equipment is still utilizing for construction efforts, and also
for costs associated with responding to the spillway emergency
in February 2017.
A 30-foot-wide section of temporary wall on the upper chute of
the Oroville Dam spillway fell over late last week, the state
Department of Water Resources confirmed on Monday. The collapse
did not impact construction deadlines and resulted in no
injuries, according to the department.
The local oversight committee spearheaded by Assemblyman James
Gallagher and Sen. Jim Nielsen had some suggestions this week
for the state Department of Water Resources on its assessment
of the Oroville Dam. This comes about a month after the
committee met for the first time on July 18.
Eighteen months after the dramatic failure of the spillways at
Oroville Dam in Northern California, a disaster that led to the
evacuation of 188,000 people, construction is on schedule to
complete the concrete work in the main spillway by Nov. 1.
… On Monday, Lake Oroville was 51 percent full, or 73
percent of its historic average for this date.
Crews have begun to place the final layer of concrete this week
on the upper portion of the Oroville Dam spillway chute. This
marks a “crucial milestone,” said Tony Meyers, project manager
for the recovery project for the state Department of Water
Resources, in a moderated media call on Wednesday.
Another attempt by the state Department of Water Resources to
have the Butte County District Attorney’s lawsuit against the
department thrown out was thwarted Friday. The civil suit stem
from the Oroville Dam crisis and the alleged 3.4 billion to 5.1
billion pounds of debris which fell from the collapsing
spillway into the Feather River in February 2017.
The independent review board hired by the state Department of
Water Resources to put outside eyes on an assessment which will
play a large role in the future operations of the Oroville Dam
has released its first report. Suggestions for infrastructure
changes like the construction of a second gated spillway are
expected to be considered through what DWR is calling a
comprehensive needs assessment.
Fran Obrigewitsch pulled up the most recent photo on her iPhone
of the Oroville Dam spillway, taken just two days before it
started to collapse last year. Her first chance to catch
another glimpse was Monday, as the state Department of Water
Resources reopened the stretch of Oro Dam Boulevard East that
offers views of the spillway to the general public for the
first time since the crisis began.
A historic first meeting between state Department of Water
Resources officials and local leaders as a committee solidified
that the community will have a say in the future of Oroville
Dam operations. … The committee is being led by co-chairs
Assemblyman James Gallagher, Sen. Jim Nielsen and DWR’s John
Enhancements to several Lake Oroville recreation areas are in
the works this summer as the state Department of Water
Resources makes good on its promise to improve lake access
ahead of the Oroville Dam relicensing. Some means of getting
more people out on the water include adding boat launch lanes
and parking spots and providing free shuttle services.
Phase two of construction on the Oroville Dam’s main and
emergency spillways is speeding along, as the Oroville
Mercury-Register got to see up close in a tour on Wednesday
guided by state Department of Water Resources officials. With
half of the main spillway currently a work in progress, the
department’s goal is to have the structure ready to use, if
needed, by Nov. 1 — just under four months away.
A local oversight committee will get to have a say as long-term
changes are considered for the Oroville Dam, after Sen. Jim
Nielsen and Assemblyman James Gallagher recently came to an
agreement with the state Department of Water Resources.
Concrete pouring is due to start Monday on the second half of
the Oroville Dam emergency spillway “splash pad.” That’s the
only milestone reported Wednesday during a media call on
progress to repair the emergency spillway and main spillway,
which sustained serious damage in February 2017.
An Inland Empire water wholesaler is poised to get a boost in
state funding for its effort to create a new local water supply
that would provide ecological benefits in Northern California.
The California Water Commission has tentatively approved nearly
$207 million in Prop. 1 water bond funds for the Inland Empire
Utilities Agency’s Chino Basin Conjunctive Use Environmental
Water Storage/Exchange Program.
Heading to Lake Oroville for the holiday weekend? It can be
tricky to keep track of what areas are open to the public, with
construction ongoing at the Oroville Dam spillways. To help
with your plans, here is some information on the accessible
trails, boat launches and other recreational areas.
A Butte County Superior Court judge will determine where
lawsuits against the state Department of Water Resources for
the Oroville Dam crisis will be considered in a written ruling.
This comes as Judge Tamara Mosbarger heard arguments on Friday
from plaintiffs and the defendant.
The largest proposal is an $8.8-billion bond for water supply
and storage efforts including water recycling, stormwater
capture, restoring fish habitats and repairing the spillways of
the Oroville Dam that were damaged in 2017.
The Diversion Pool below Oroville Dam and the trails on both
sides of it will be partially open Friday through the Fourth of
July, the Department of Water Resources announced Wednesday.
The report came during a conference call to update media on the
status of work to repair the spillways, which were heavily
damaged in February 2017.
The U.S. Senate passed on Monday the 2019 Energy and Water
Development appropriations bill, which requires an
independent risk analysis of Oroville Dam. Additionally, the
bill would order the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to
report the findings of an independent panel reviewing the state
Department of Water Resources’ dam safety practices to the
The state Department of Water Resources announced plans on
Friday to draw Lake Oroville down to 808 feet elevation by
early next week. This is to provide a second point of access to
the upper chute of the Oroville Dam spillway, through the
radial gates, for construction.
The state Department of Water Resources has beefed up its
response to the independent forensic report on what caused the
Oroville Dam spillway failure last year. The report, released
on Jan. 5, described how insufficient maintenance and repairs
and faulty original design allowed water to seep through the
spillway’s cracks and joints. It also blamed “long-term
systemic failure” on the part of DWR, regulators and the dam
safety industry at large.
A lawsuit filed by Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey
against the state Department of Water Resources over
environmental damages resulting from the Oroville Dam spillway
crisis is moving forward in court. Butte County Superior Court
Judge Stephen Benson overruled DWR’s demurrer, which is
essentially a plea to have a case dismissed, through a written
ruling filed on May 31.
An excavator slid down the Oroville Dam spillway slope on
Sunday morning, resulting in minor injuries to its operator,
the state Department of Water Resources confirmed on Wednesday.
Erin Mellon, assistant director of public affairs for DWR, said
that the operator immediately got back to work after the
accident, which is currently under investigation by the
department and Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., the lead
contractor for the construction project.
Bald eagles booted out of their nest last year during the
Oroville Dam spillway crisis have proven to be quite the
resilient pair, making a new home for themselves and
successfully hatching two little ones. During the incident last
February, the state Department of Water Resources had to
reroute powerlines that used to cross the spillway slope.
The Oroville Strong! advocacy group is going by a new name and
hoping to increase its reach to those in the greater area who
have been affected by the spillway crisis. The new entity
called the Feather River Recovery Alliance will be headed by
some of the same leaders; however, it will be disassociated
from the Oroville Chamber of Commerce.
The opening of the Diversion Pool last weekend to kayakers and
hikers appears to have been a big success according to all
involved, and it may happen again. “We’ve already been
discussing it with our partners and probably will,” State Parks
District Superintendent Aaron Wright said Thursday, “but I
can’t commit to that now.”
Two bills proposed by Assemblyman James Gallagher, one of which
would have taken the State Water Project from the state
Department of Water Resources and another which would have
provided funding for school resource officers, failed on Friday
to pass through the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
The second and final phase of reconstruction continues at the
Oroville Dam spillways. … A flight over the location last
week during a break in Butte County Sheriff’s Office helicopter
training exercise, showed that much original concrete at the
top of the chute has been removed, along with the walls.
Californians this year will vote on not one but two water bond
measures totaling $13 billion. Given that the state still
hasn’t spent all of the $7.5 billion from the Proposition 1
water bond passed in 2014, it raises a crucial question: Does
California really need another $13 billion in water bonds?
In order to get boaters and swimmers back to Lake Oroville
after the Oroville Dam spillway was damaged in 2017, state
agencies have announced they will waive fees for the
recreational area on select days over the summer.
While work to repair the main Oroville Dam spillway will
largely be done by Nov. 1, in response to a question, the
Department of Water Resources clarified that work on the
emergency spillway will continue into 2019.
Construction work began just after midnight Tuesday morning on
phase 2 of the repairs to the Oroville Dam main spillway. The
Department of Water Resources had been granted permission by
federal and state regulators to start work May 8, and
contractor Kiewit Infrastructure West didn’t waste any time.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently told north
state congressmen Doug LaMalfa and John Garamendi that the
agency is still reviewing whether the state Department of Water
Resources is eligible for further reimbursement to fix the
Oroville Dam spillway.
The NOR-CAL Guides and Sportsmen’s Association and other
fishing groups had spent more than a year pressuring state dam
and fish-hatchery managers to raise extra fish to make up for
the ones the fishing groups say were lost after the Oroville
Dam spillway collapsed in February 2017.
A bill proposed by Assemblyman James Gallagher which would take
the State Water Project out of the hands of the state
Department of Water Resources passed unanimously on Tuesday
through a legislative committee. Assembly Bill 3045 passed 15-0
through the Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee and
is now headed to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
The extreme weather swings experienced by Californians the past
six years — a historic drought followed by drenching winter
storms that caused $100 million in damage to San Jose and
wrecked the spillway at Oroville Dam — will become the norm
over coming generations, a new study has found.
The U.S. Geological Survey over the last year has recorded
dozens of weak and shallow earthquakes near Oroville Dam and
its spillways. And nearly all the tremors — including a
magnitude-0.8 quake recorded Wednesday — share the same
designation: “Chemical explosion.”
While some construction continues at Oroville Dam, the bulk of
work under phase two is expected to begin May 8, state
Department of Water Resources officials said Wednesday in a
monthly media update call. This comes as DWR submitted an
updated 2017-2018 Lake Oroville operations plan on Tuesday to
the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the California
Division of Safety of Dams for approval.
After a spring storm system dumped 5 to 7 inches of rain into
the Feather River basin over the weekend, state officials said
Sunday they likely won’t have to use the partly rebuilt flood
control spillway at Oroville Dam after all.
Northern California is bracing for a major spring storm that is
expected to dump several inches of rain on burn-scarred areas
of wine country and could present the first test of the
partially repaired spillway at the nation’s tallest dam.
Flash floods, rising rivers and mudslides are possible across
Northern California as a storm that’s more January than April
barrels in from the Pacific, the National Weather Service
warns. “This is not the time of year when we see these big
precipitation events,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist
Oroville Dam operators said Tuesday they may have to release
water over a partially rebuilt spillway for the first time
since repairs began on the badly damaged structure last summer.
Department of Water Resources officials said anticipated storms
could trigger releases this week or next.
With a pounding storm headed for California, state water
officials said Tuesday that Oroville Dam’s crumbled spillway
could get its first test since being rebuilt in the wake of
last year’s near-catastrophe.
The flows have been shut off through the Hyatt Powerhouse at
the base of Oroville Dam, and the lake is beginning to rise.
And that’s all by design, according to the state Department of
Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. said on Wednesday that
construction of the underground wall below the Oroville Dam
emergency spillway completed in early March. The 1,450 feet
long wall, drilled 35-65 feet into bedrock, is one preventative
measure against the type of erosion that occurred there last
year, should the emergency spillway ever be used again.
A bill introduced by Sen. Jim Nielsen that would create a
citizens advisory commission for the Oroville Dam was amended
in the Senate last week. This comes as the Oroville Dam
Coalition has been lobbying over the past year for more
community involvement, including through a citizens oversight
committee, as a reaction to the spillway crisis in February