The Sacramento Valley, the northern part of the Central Valley,
spreads through 10 counties north of the Sacramento–San Joaquin
River Delta (Delta). Sacramento is an important agricultural
region, growing citrus, nuts and rice among many other crops.
Water flows from the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range to the region’s
two major rivers — the Sacramento and American – and west into
the Delta. Other rivers include the Cosumnes, which is the
largest free-flowing river in the Central Valley, the lower
Feather, Bear and Yuba.
The Sacramento Valley attracts more than 2 million ducks and
geese each winter to its seasonal marshes along the Pacific
Flyway. Species include northern pintails, snow geese, tundra
swans, sandhill cranes, mallards, grebes, peregrine falcons,
heron, egrets, and hawks.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Creek, working with Republican
Doug LaMalfa of the First District, have introduced the Sites
Reservoir Protection Act to support building the reservoir and
other water infrastructure in the Central Valley. The act, also
known as House Resolution 1453, would direct the Bureau of
Reclamation to complete a feasibility study for the project in
Colusa and Glenn counties.
Yuba Water Agency is presenting a collaborative framework to
the State Water Resources Control Board today, a detailed plan
to improve fish and wildlife habitat conditions in the San
Francisco/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary watershed
(Bay-Delta), including fisheries enhancement measures on the
lower Yuba River.
When California’s new governor announced during his February 12
State of the State address that he didn’t support WaterFix as a
two-tunnel behemoth, he received a loud burst of applause. Yet,
in the next breath, when Newsom added he supported a one-tunnel
version, no applause followed. That’s partly because the
one-tunnel announcement hasn’t alleviated fears of people
living on the north side of the estuary. Hood, Clarksburg and
Courtland property owners still face the very real possibility
of being hit with eminent domain.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Solano, introduced the Sites Reservoir
Protection Act Thursday to provide federal support for the
building of Sites Reservoir and other water infrastructures in
the Central Valley. The act, also known as House Resolution
1453, would direct the Bureau of Reclamation to complete a
feasibility study for the project Colusa and Glenn counties.
The Yolo Bypass is central, both geographically and in
importance, to California’s water supply and flood protection
system, according to Bontadelli. However, proposed
modifications to the Bypass to enhance habitat for
out-migrating endangered winter and spring-run young salmon
means the it will be key to the continued pumping of water
south for agriculture and urban users.
Rains over the past several weeks have caused erosion to a
recently improved portion of levee along the east side of the
Feather River and protecting Marysville. But officials say the
damage is superficial and doesn’t pose a threat to public
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.
The city currently has six groundwater pumping stations that
were used during the drought. But the stations have the ability
to pump water back into the aquifer as well. The Folsom Dam
currently has three gates open to release enough water so it
has room to capture flood water. Roseville Utility officials
say it’s just the right time to do a larger scale test of its
water injection strategy.
When operating, Sites Reservoir will provide significantly more
water during drier periods, to become a new drought-management
tool to address California’s water management challenges into
the 21st century and beyond. Innovative and environmentally
sound, Sites Reservoir will provide water to enhance the
environment when it can provide greater benefits and provide a
resilient and reliable supply of water for our communities,
farms and businesses.
At the end of 2017, several local rice farmers teamed up with
researchers for a pilot program known as “Fish in the Fields”
through the Resource Renewal Institute, a nonprofit research
and natural resource policy group, to see what would happen
when fish were introduced to flooded rice fields. Now in its
second year of experiments, researchers have concluded that it
works, with methane – a climate-changing byproduct of rice
agriculture much more detrimental than carbon dioxide – being
reduced by about two-thirds, or 65 percent, in flooded fields
that had fish in them.
The Butte County Environmental Health Department announced
Friday morning that businesses that plan on re-opening in the
Camp Fire affected area and will be installing temporary water
systems, including water tanks and hauling water, must contact
its office prior to opening.
Over the past two years, scared off by the anticipated costs of
storing water there, Valley agricultural irrigation districts
have steadily reduced their ownership shares of Sites. The
powerful Metropolitan Water District of Southern California …
is nearly as big an investor in Sites as all of the Sacramento
Valley farm districts combined. Metropolitan agreed Tuesday to
contribute another $4.2 million to help plan the project.
The interrelated nature of water issues has given rise to a
management approach that integrates flood control,
environmental water, and water supply. The Yuba Water Agency
manages its watershed in this kind of coordinated manner. We
talked to Curt Aikens, the agency’s general manager, about the
lessons they’ve learned from this “integrated management”
The wet weather broke a daily rainfall record in Sacramento,
with 1.6 inches of rain recorded at the Sacramento Executive
Airport over 24 hours. But the state’s network of flood-control
dams and levees appeared to handle the deluge without major
problems. The National Weather Service issued a flood
warning Wednesday morning for the Sacramento Valley, and it was
expected to remain in place until 6 p.m. Thursday as heavy and
moderate rainfall was forecast to continue through Thursday.
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.
Of the handful of speakers at the California Water Service
hearing Tuesday, none supported the proposed rate increases for
Chico, objecting to high costs, compensation to
high-level executives and profit made by shareholders.
The Department of Water Resources reported last week that the
surface level of most of the Sacramento Valley wasn’t dropping,
which is incredibly good news. But it’s the kind of news that
most people can not appreciate.
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.
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 tiny town of Arbuckle in Northern California sank more than
two feet in nine years. The revelation comes from a new survey
that tracked subsidence — the gradual sinking of land — in the
Sacramento Valley between 2008-17. Located about 50 miles north
of Sacramento, Arbuckle (pop. 3,028) sank more than any other
surveyed area. … Subsidence has long been an issue in
California, but its recent acceleration was likely fueled by an
extreme drought that plagued California between 2012-16.
The City of Chico has seen a population explosion,
and it’s not just the roads that are impacted. Post-Camp
Fire sewage production numbers are at an all-time
high. Before the fire, Chico’s wastewater treatment
facility processed about 6 million gallons of waste on average
per day. Since then that amount has gone up to 7 million.
Biosolid production has gone up 70%, while overall waste and
sewage flows are up 17%.
Early last year, construction started on a $90 million project
to build seven miles of setback levees and floodplains to
protect Hamilton City from floods on the Sacramento River. …
The new barriers are much farther from the riverbanks—as far as
a mile away in places. In some respects, the concept is
absurdly simple: During heavy rains or spring snowmelt, rivers
need room to expand; moving levees back from riverbanks
provides it. Setback levees not only reduce the need for newer
and larger dams and levees, but also restore the natural
New data released measure changes in land subsidence in the
Sacramento Valley over the past nine years, finding the
greatest land surface declines in Arbuckle. According to the
Sacramento Valley GPS Subsidence Netwook Report and
accompanying fact sheet … land in the Arbuckle area has sunk
2.14 feet compared with baseline measurements recorded in the
same location in 2008, according to a press release from the
Department of Water Resources.
More water storage projects will not solve the basic fact that
the state’s finite amount of water is incapable of meeting all
of the demands. This deficit has been created primarily by the
transformation of a semi-arid area— the Central Valley — by an
infusion of water from northern California.
State water quality officials cautioned the public not to drink
or cook with untreated surface water from streams throughout
the Camp Fire burn area after bacteria and other contaminants
were detected in water samples. … Laboratory analyses of
surface water samples found concentrations of bacteria
(E.Coli), aluminum, antimony and some polycyclic aromatic
hydrocarbons (PAHs) that exceeded water quality standards for
At least one state agency has indicated it will not issue
necessary permits to allow federal officials and a Fresno-based
water district to begin construction to raise the height of
Shasta Dam. In addition to facing opposition from the
state, the project could also face fresh hurdles from Congress,
which this year came under control of Democrats. In a
letter to the Fresno-based Westlands Water District, the State
Water Resources Control Board says raising the height of Shasta
Dam would violate state law.
The work to provide Yuba-Sutter with the highest level of flood
protection possible isn’t yet complete, but the levees are much
better today, having had the oversight expertise of the head of
the Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency. After more than seven
years with the agency, SBFCA Executive Director Mike Inamine
announced he would be leaving this week for a job with the
California Department of Water Resources.
The McCormack-Williamson Tract restoration project, a 1,500
acre site, lowers the levees on the north side of the island to
allow the river to overtop into the site. On the south side,
DWR will alleviate the surge flows that pose a risk to
neighbors by opening small holes in the levee. 2018 saw the
completion of construction of a levee to protect existing
infrastructure on the site, as well as progress on habitat
restoration plans. For the next phase, DWR will strengthen the
interior levees and take steps toward opening the site up to
Another Pacific storm was set to hit California on Wednesday,
bringing a threat of mudslides to the site of the deadliest
wildfire in state history and a rare blizzard warning in the
Sierra Nevada. An evacuation warning was in place into Thursday
morning for Pulga, a canyon community in Northern California.
Its neighbor, the town of Paradise, was virtually incinerated
two months ago by the Camp Fire that killed 86 people and
destroyed nearly 15,000 homes.
Last week, the relicensing effort reached a milestone when FERC
issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement. The
environmental document essentially looks at what changes a
licensee has proposed for a specific project, the impacts of
those changes and provides conditions they must meet if awarded
a new license.
The long road to recovery in the town of Paradise starts with
removing millions of tons of charred rubble left in the Camp
Fire’s wake. But the question remains: Where will it all go?
Disaster officials are scrambling to secure a place to sort and
process the remnants of nearly 19,000 structures destroyed in
the wildfire that began on Nov. 8 and killed 86 people. The
mammoth undertaking has been slowed by staunch opposition in
nearby communities eyed as potential sites for a temporary
scrapyard, which would receive 250 to 400 truckloads of
concrete and metal each day.
Butte County may soon have a better idea of what lies beneath
its surface. Starting in late November, a helicopter took off
for several days from the Orland airport to fly a pattern over
an area between Chico and Orland, and southeast into Butte
Valley. Dangling beneath the helicopter was a hoop loaded with
devices that created a weak magnetic field and instruments that
measured how that interacted with layers beneath the soil.
Everyone who diverts water is required to report to the State
Water Board the amount they used. But Louis and Darcy Chacon
reported an amount that just didn’t make sense. The Chacons
reported they used more than 1 trillion acre-feet of water
annually from 2009 to 2013, more than is available on the
At the end of the last century, the Sierra Nevada captured an
average of 8.76 million acre-feet of water critical to the
nation’s largest food-producing region. By mid-century, a new
study projects, the average will fall to 4 million acre-feet;
and by century’s end, 1.81 million acre-feet.
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.
Not long after the Gold Rush of 1849, California became a state
and made its capital in Sacramento. It seemed a logical choice.
The city was served by the two of the state’s biggest rivers,
the Sacramento and American, at a time when a lot of goods and
people moved via river traffic. It was somewhat centrally
located. But, there was the occasional flood. Every spring, the
snowcap in the Sierras melts, leaving a significant amount of
water in the Central Valley, where Sacramento sits. The city
engineered a levee system to control the seasonal flooding.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin advertising for
bids on a Feather River West Levee construction project
estimated at $77 million. According to a staff report published
earlier this year by the Central Valley Flood Protection Board,
the project would make improvements to approximately 4.9 miles
Trump administration officials were in California on Tuesday to
announce a $450 million loan for the Sites Reservoir project in
Colusa County. The money will be used to build a tunnel to
carry water from the Glenn-Colusa Canal to an existing
reservoir, giving farmers on the west side of the Sacramento
Valley more access to irrigation water.
Despite being evacuated nearly two weeks ago from their homes
in the wake of spreading wildfires, residents of the town of
Butte Creek Canyon — a few miles east of Chico — plan to join
forces Wednesday to save the local salmon population.
… Now, the fish face a new danger, as rains threaten to
wash toxic debris from the nearby wildfires into the creek.
The plumes of smoke from the fire, which has burned 141,000
acres in Northern California, get the most attention, but the
Camp Fire is leaving other environmental hazards in its wake:
toxic ash from burning homes, polluted water, and burning
Superfund sites. … “Anything that’s affecting the air
quality will eventually affect water quality,” Los Angeles
Waterkeeper Executive Director Bruce Reznik told Bloomberg
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.
Marysville is one step closer to being the most protected city
in the Central Valley from flooding, experts say, with the
recent completion of a stretch of slurry wall in part of the
ring levee project. Last week, crews completed a portion
of the Marysville Ring Levee project – Phase 2A North – located
between the 10th Street and Fifth Street bridges.
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.
When it comes to flood fighting, the men and women who’ve
worked for Levee District 1 have seen it all – from tragedy to
triumph. Those still around have plenty of stories to tell. The
public will have an opportunity to hear some of those stories
during the district’s 150th anniversary celebration on Oct. 26.
The district is responsible for operations and maintenance of
16.15 miles of levee spanning from Pease Road to Marcuse Road
in Sutter County.
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.
Sites Reservoir, the largest new water storage proposal in
California, recently won a commitment of $816 million in state
funds to help with construction. It promises to deliver enough
water every year, on average, to serve 1 million homes. But
regulatory realities looming in the background may mean the
project has substantially less water at its disposal.
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.
The latest water conservation figures released by the state
show Butte County saving at about double the statewide rate.
The Water Resources Control Board released the number for July
last week, and statewide water savings were 13.6 percent lower
than in July 2013, the benchmark pre-drought year.
Dave Vogel already knew that levees and dams had devastated the
coastal salmon population in California’s longest river. The
surprise for the fisheries scientist arrived when he saw the
video footage of young salmon clustered beneath bridges in the
The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that a farming company has
agreed to pay $5.3 million in civil penalties and costs to
perform work to repair disturbed streams and wetlands on
property near the Sacramento River. … “Like the Duarte
settlement last year, today’s agreement serves the public
interest in enforcement of the Clean Water Act and deterrence
of future violations,” said Jeffrey H. Wood, acting assistant
attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environmental and
Natural Resources Division.
An hour’s drive north of Sacramento sits a picture-perfect valley hugging the eastern foothills of Northern California’s Coast Range, with golden hills framing grasslands mostly used for cattle grazing.
Back in the late 1800s, pioneer John Sites built his ranch there and a small township, now gone, bore his name. Today, the community of a handful of families and ranchers still maintains a proud heritage.
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.
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.
Farmers in the Central Valley are broiling about California’s
plan to increase flows in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river
systems to help struggling salmon runs avoid extinction. But
north of Sacramento, River Garden Farms is taking part in some
extraordinary efforts to provide the embattled fish with refuge
from predators and enough food to eat. And while there is no
direct benefit to one farm’s voluntary actions, the belief is
what’s good for the fish is good for the farmers.
Farmers in the Central Valley are broiling about California’s plan to increase flows in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems to help struggling salmon runs avoid extinction. But in one corner of the fertile breadbasket, River Garden Farms is taking part in some extraordinary efforts to provide the embattled fish with refuge from predators and enough food to eat.
And while there is no direct benefit to one farm’s voluntary actions, the belief is what’s good for the fish is good for the farmers.
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.
The Sacramento and San Joaquin
rivers are the two major Central Valley waterways that feed the
Delta, the hub of California’s water supply
network. Our last water tours of
2018 will look in-depth at how these rivers are managed and
used for agriculture, cities and the environment. You’ll see
infrastructure, learn about efforts to restore salmon runs and
talk to people with expertise on these rivers.
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.
The Sites Reservoir project will move forward, according to
officials, despite being awarded in a recent California Water
Commission announcement about half what project backers sought.
They will spend the next few months securing the necessary
financing to begin the next phase.
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.
Get an up-close look at some of
California’s key water reservoirs and learn about farming
operations, habitat restoration, flood management and wetlands in
the Sacramento Valley on our Northern California Water Tour
Each year, participants on the Northern California Water Tour
enjoy three days exploring the Sacramento Valley during the
temperate fall. Join us as we travel through a scenic landscape
along the Sacramento and Feather rivers to learn about
issues associated with storing and delivering the state’s water
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.
More than a decade in the making, an
ambitious plan to deal with the vexing problem of salt and
nitrates in the soils that seep into key groundwater basins of
the Central Valley is moving toward implementation. But its
authors are not who you might expect.
An unusual collaboration of agricultural interests, cities, water
agencies and environmental justice advocates collaborated for
years to find common ground to address a set of problems that
have rendered family wells undrinkable and some soil virtually
unusable for farming.
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.
Among California rivers, the Yuba is one of the most dramatic.
Draining the Sierra Nevada just north of Lake Tahoe, it is
steep and flashy – one of the most flood-prone rivers in the
state. Yuba River floods have killed people – notably in 1955,
1986 and 1997 – and climate change is making such floods more
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.
New water storage is the holy grail
primarily for agricultural interests in California, and in 2014
the door to achieving long-held ambitions opened with the passage
1, which included $2.7 billion for the public benefits
portion of new reservoirs and groundwater storage projects. The
statute stipulated that the money is specifically for the
benefits that a new storage project would offer to the ecosystem,
water quality, flood control, emergency response and recreation.
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 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.
A steady stream of trucks has started carrying dirt to what
will be a new levee to protect Hamilton City. The trucks
started rolling Monday, carrying dirt from a pile at the north
end of Canal Road that is left from the excavation of the
The Army Corps of Engineers announced Monday that the
additional money would be available to the Hamilton City Flood
Damage Reduction and Ecosystem Restoration Project in the
current fiscal year. … It is the first in the
nation being constructed under the Corps’ guidelines to develop
projects that include both flood risk reduction and ecosystem
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.
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.
The California Water Commission – the entity responsible for
awarding $2.7 billion in Proposition 1 funds to water storage
projects in a few months – didn’t quite see eye-to-eye with
officials pushing for Sites Reservoir, primarily on the
benefits to salmon the project would provide.
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.
One billion dollars isn’t enough, Sites Reservoir supporters
say. Despite being eligible for $1 billion in Proposition 1
funds from the state, a top official with the group
spearheading Sites Reservoir said the state is failing to see
the big picture in terms of the benefits the project would
provide California, namely its endangered salmon.
The California Water Commission announced Friday that the Sites
Reservoir project was eligible for $1 billion in Proposition 1
funds, up from $933 million the commission had said it might
receive last month. … The commission also signaled more
support for a small groundwater storage proposed by the
Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District.
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.
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.
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
State Parks workers were pulling cable up a launch ramp at
Bidwell Marina Thursday because the water level in Lake
Oroville is on the rise. March’s storms have brought the lake
level up almost 13 feet since the start of the month, according
to the Department of Water Resources website.
The state Department of Water Resources submitted its plan to
the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Tuesday to address
findings in the independent forensic report. The extensive
forensic report, released on Jan. 5, blamed “long-term
systematic failure,” including faulty design and insufficient
maintenance, for the Oroville Dam crisis in February 2017.
Sites Project Authority officials recently appealed the
California Water Commission’s initial public benefit score in
hopes of improving their pitch for a chunk of the $2.7 billion
in available Proposition 1 funding for state water storage
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Monday that
seeks to beef up dam inspections following a near disaster that
caused the evacuation of almost 200,000 people living
downstream from the tallest one in the United States. The
measure implements several recommendations from experts who
reviewed the crisis at Oroville Dam last year.
Despite the heat that often
accompanies debates over setting aside water for the environment,
there are instances where California stakeholders have forged
agreements to provide guaranteed water for fish. Here are two
examples cited by the Public Policy Institute of California in
its report arguing for an environmental water right.
Though the final phase of repair work on the main spillway at
Lake Oroville is now on the back burner until spring,
Department of Water Resources officials said crews are making
significant progress on repairing the emergency spillway.
Until February 2017, the calls that came to Butte 2-1-1 ranged
from quelling stress, and finding support organizations, to
locating low-cost diapers. But for a few weeks after the
Oroville Dam spillway disaster, the calls were desperate,
seeking evacuation routes, hunting for surviving relatives, and
wondering when residents could return home.
Modifications were made to construction plans for an upcoming
phase of the Marysville Ring Levee project. … The Marysville
Levee Commission, the Central Valley Flood Protection Board and
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are proposing changes to their
original plans for an area located along the existing levee to
the southwest of Marysville, between the Fifth Street Bridge
and E Street Bridge.
With the threat of another drought looming, federal officials
announced water allocations Tuesday that gave the city of
Redding a full complement of water, but other water agencies,
such as the Bella Vista Water District, were left with
Assemblyman James Gallagher rounded up a group of bipartisan
legislators to visit Oroville on Thursday, where they met with
community members and toured the now-infamous dam.
Representatives of districts ranging from southern to northern
California came to better understand the place where the
evacuation of about 188,000 people occurred just over a year
Locals who lost business or saw their property value decrease
because of the Oroville Dam crisis are anxious to be reimbursed
through a class action lawsuit filed last week. … There
is a variety of plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit,
including a child care facility, a water ski shop, a ranch and
One year after the worst structural failures at a major U.S.
dam in a generation, federal regulators who oversee
California’s half-century-old, towering Oroville Dam say they
are looking hard at how they overlooked its built-in weaknesses
Butte County District Attorney Michael Ramsey has filed a
lawsuit against the California Department of Water Resources
seeking $34 billion to $51 billion in civil penalties for
environmental damage following the failure of the Oroville Dam
spillways last February.
Butte County prosecutors are seeking up to $51 billion in fines
and penalties against California’s water agency for damage
caused to local river-based wildlife after the Oroville dam
spillway failure last year, officials said.
Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey announced Wednesday
that his office filed a lawsuit against the state Department of
Water Resources for environmental damages to the Feather River
as a result of the Oroville Dam crisis.
Oroville Dam’s battered flood-control spillways have been
largely rebuilt, but the cost of last February’s near-disaster
keeps rising. On Friday, state officials put the total price
tag at $870 million.
The view from Don Murphy’s expansive backyard is breathtaking.
The Sacramento River rolls gently past as birds float in the
mid-winter fog. It is nearly silent, except for the infrequent
car driving along a delta road across the river. … Now a
fight is heating up over who should have access to that
Local leaders are pressing the state Department of Water
Resources for details on how residents will be involved in the
community needs assessment. Department officials have said that
constructing additional infrastructure at Oroville Dam,
including a second gated spillway and a fully lined emergency
spillway, would be considered as part of the assessment.
The state Department of Water Resources could have lost control
of the spillway radial gates for days during the Oroville Dam
crisis if crucial power lines had gone down, according to
department officials. DWR leaders Cindy Messer and Joel Ledesma
stated this Jan. 10 during a legislative oversight hearing on
the dam at the State Capitol.
The project is called the Fish Food on Floodplain Farm Fields
Project. It’s part of a greater effort to restore threatened
fish species — the Sacramento Valley Salmon Recovery Program.
The project comes at a key time: A recent UC Davis study
suggests that winter run chinook salmon could go extinct if
efforts to recover the species aren’t taken up.
The Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
are currently testing Folsom Dam’s auxiliary spillway, part of
the official commissioning of the newly constructed structure.
The Corps, in cooperation with Reclamation, are testing all of
the major systems in the structure, ensuring that the facility
operates as intended in the design. The tests, underway this
week and next, include operating and releasing water from all
six new auxiliary spillway radial gates.
An investigation into last winter’s near catastrophe at
Oroville Dam uncovered a litany of problems with how the dam
was built and maintained, but one of them stands out: Even as
workers built the dam, they were raising alarms about the
eroded, crumbling rock on which they were directed to lay
concrete for the 3,000-foot-long main flood control spillway.
Signaling what could be a wave of lawsuits arising from last
year’s spillway crisis, the city of Oroville is planning to
file a complaint Wednesday against the state Department of
Water Resources for damages it says it suffered during and
after the emergency. About 188,000 people were evacuated from
communities along the Feather River after the failure of
Oroville Dam’s main spillway last Feb. 7.
California water officials have always insisted public safety
was their only concern as they struggled with the crisis
unfolding last February at Oroville Dam. The forensic team
investigating what happened at Lake Oroville, however, has
pinpointed another factor guiding the decisions made by the
Department of Water Resources: the state’s desire to continue
shipping water to faraway farms and cities that rely on
deliveries from the reservoir.
The spillway failures at Oroville Dam that prompted tens of
thousands to flee for their lives last winter were the result
of years of mistakes, lax inspections and lazy repairs by the
state’s water agency, a team of independent dam experts
reported Friday. Their conclusions: State water managers should
not have built the dam’s primary spillway on faulty
Less than nine months after two massive holes formed in Lake
Oroville’s main spillway, construction crews wrapped up their
first phase of rebuilding it. Some local residents have
expressed concerns that the quick turnover could result in
faults or design flaws, but an official with the Department of
Water Resources said if any crew can accomplish the feat, it
would be Kiewit Infrastructure West Co.
The independent team of experts investigating the dramatic
failure of the spillways last February at Oroville Dam that led
to the evacuation of 188,000 people has concluded that
California water officials were “overconfident and complacent”
and gave “inadequate priority for dam safety,” according to a
final report released Friday.
The forensic team investigating the February emergency at
Oroville Dam blasted the California Department of Water
Resources on Friday, saying the dam’s owner and operator did a
poor job of designing, building and maintaining the structure
and neglected safety while focusing on the “water delivery
needs” of its customers to the south.
State Department of Water Resources officials recently met with
Oroville Dam Coalition members to consider their ideas for
the Oroville Wildlife Area project, but announced later
the same day that the department had different plans.
Elected officials and other groups representing those living
below the troubled Oroville Dam have asked the Trump
administration to hold off on renewing its 50-year license,
saying the federal government should at least know why the
spillway broke in half last winter before signing off.
There were many takeaways from last February’s Lake Oroville
spillway incident, but one very alarming one: a large number of
Yuba-Sutter residents who evacuated said they experienced
issues with leaving the area, mainly due to traffic congestion.
And a startling number of residents reported that they stayed
home instead of fleeing, risking their lives in the event the
emergency spillway did collapse.
The near-disaster at Oroville Dam last February brought damage
claims flooding into the state by the hundreds – shops and
restaurants that lost business, farms that got overwhelmed by
surges in water, cities and counties buried in evacuation
expenses. Most claims argue that the state is responsible for
the emergency because it ignored warning signs about the
condition of the dam’s spillway.
The previously secret state Department of Water Resources
memorandum explaining the hairline cracks in the Oroville Dam
spillway is now public. The document provides more details on
how Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., the contractor for spillway
reconstruction, tried to reduce shrinkage, which leads to
cracking in concrete.
Yuba-Sutter residents voiced concerns to the Department of
Water Resources over a variety of issues Thursday night,
including the hairline cracks that have appeared on the
reconstructed spillway, a need for more transparency moving
forward, and the significant amount of sediment buildup in the
Feather River brought about by the Lake Oroville incident last
February and plans – or lack thereof – to clear it out.
Northern California residents living in the shadow of the
nation’s tallest dam vented decades of frustration with state
water managers Wednesday, telling officials they have no
credibility when they say hairline cracks in a newly rebuilt
spillway are nothing to worry about.
It might be another year or so until reconstruction of the main
spillway at Lake Oroville is officially complete, but
Department of Water Resources officials say the structure is
ready for whatever this winter can throw at it, even if there
are a few cracks here and there.
A team of researchers and Marysville rice farmers initiated a
study this week in Yuba County to see if introducing fish to a
flooded rice field could both reduce methane emissions and
allow for a new reliable protein source.
The Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency got to work on emergency
levee repairs following last winter’s high waters and the
Oroville Dam evacuation. Seepage, boils, sink holes and water
erosion were signs of severe distress. The $28.5 million
project, mostly funded by the state, is geared up to complete
Biologists assumed baby winter-run Chinook salmon hung out in
the Sacramento River where they hatched until they grew large
enough to make the trip downstream to the Pacific Ocean. A
recently released scientific study challenges that assumption –
and may have implications in how fisheries agencies manage
Sacramento Valley waterways to protect the critically
Phase two of construction at Oroville Dam — with work on both
spillways — might prove more challenging than the first feat,
the contractor’s project director said in a media call
Thursday. … DWR [California Department of Water
Resources] will hold two community meetings next week.
Oroville’s mayor said Thursday she knew about cracks in the
replacement spillway at the troubled dam nearby and is not
concerned, but heaped criticism on state water officials for
failing to communicate with her town. Linda Dahlmeier said the
Department of Water Resources should have proactively
communicated that cracks were expected but has instead created
a “firestorm” in a community that was rattled by sudden
evacuation orders last February.
Politicians and river guides are calling upon the state
Department of Water Resources to mitigate sediment build up in
the Feather River following the Oroville Dam
crisis. … The state Department of Water Resources
is currently assessing the impacts of sediment on the river
system, with the study expected to be complete in December,
said Jon Ericson, acting division chief for the division of
It appears this is an average year for the number of fall-fun
Chinook Salmon returning to spawn in the American River. The
numbers were expected to be much lower because of high water
temperatures and predators when the fish were juveniles heading
to the ocean during the drought.
Hairline cracks have been detected in sections of the newly
reconstructed flood-control spillway at Oroville Dam. State and
federal officials said they’re confident the cracks don’t pose
a safety problem and don’t need to be repaired.
Several small cracks have been discovered on the Oroville Dam’s
newly rebuilt concrete spillway, prompting federal regulators
to express concern about the $500 million construction project
under way at the troubled facility. But state water officials
said Tuesday that the series of millimeter-wide cracks on the
surface of the main spillway pose no structural problems for
the nation’s tallest dam.
Federal regulators have asked the officials who operate
Oroville Dam — and who are in charge of the $500 million-plus
effort to rebuild and reinforce the facility’s compromised
spillways — to explain small cracks that have appeared in
recently rebuilt sections of the dam’s massive concrete
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 repair efforts on the
Oroville Dam spillway.
Water tests at school drinking fountains across Northern
California found dangerous levels of lead and other metals,
prompting school officials to shut down the fountains. However,
thousands of schools across California have not participated in
a state-funded program to test their drinking water, according
to an investigation by KCRA 3.
Sen. Jim Nielsen, Assemblyman James Gallagher, and members of
the Oroville Dam Coalition are seeking federal assistance on
issues relating to the dam they say need to be resolved. They
met with commissioners of the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission and representatives for the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the
Federal Emergency Management Agency.
State Sen. Jim Nielsen, Assemblyman James Gallagher and
Oroville Dam Coalition members are heading to Washington, D.C.,
this week to address what they say are outstanding issues
following the spillway crisis.
Reps. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, and Doug LaMalfa,
R-Richvale, Monday introduced to a bill that would require the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to conduct an additional
environmental review of the Oroville Dam. The congressmen would
like to see a review done before the commission approves the
relicensing of the dam under state Department of Water
California is launching an overall safety review of the
nation’s tallest dam to pinpoint any needed upgrades in the
half-century-old structure, water officials said Wednesday,
launching the kind of overarching review called for by an
independent national panel of experts in September following
the collapse of two spillways at Oroville Dam.
Crews are laying the last layer of concrete on the Oroville Dam
spillway with one day until the state Department of Water
Resources’ deadline to have the structure ready to pass flows
of 100,000 cubic-feet per second, or cfs.
Even living here on the West Coast, Marion Townsend decided to
act as floods ravaged Texas and hurricanes pounded the
Caribbean in recent weeks. Her Sacramento neighborhood slopes
downward from a levee that separates it from the American
River, in an area that officials concede never should have been
settled but is home to 100,000 residents.
Considering the events of this past winter and the problems
they posed to Yuba-Sutter levees, officials are confident the
improvements made over the past several months will withstand
the upcoming flood season.
California needs to spend another $100 million a year to keep
the state’s levee system sound, according to state flood
control experts. At a press conference marking flood
preparedness week Monday at a levee repair site near
Sacramento, Bill Edgar, president of the Central Valley Flood
Protection Board said the levees will need a $17 billion to $21
billion investment over the next 30 years to protect the seven
million Californians at flood risk.
Over the past several weeks crews have been out on Whiskeytown
Lake repairing the temperature curtains in the water near the
Visitors Center. … The curtains are an important part of the
bureau’s Central Valley Project, which includes Trinity and
Lewiston dams and Shasta and Keswick dams.
The state Department of Water Resources plans to clear mounds
of rock from the Gold Rush days at the Oroville Wildlife Area
and put them to use in the rebuilding of the spillways at
Oroville Dam. DWR received approval from the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission, according to a filing made last week.
Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration think two main factors caused low numbers of
spring-run chinook salmon to return this year: drought and
abnormally warm temperatures.
Survey results largely showed that respondents weren’t happy
with how things went down this past February at the Lake
Oroville spillways and the events that followed. Most
respondents expressed their concerns were with the California
Department of Water Resources.
The cost of repairing the crippling damage to Oroville Dam’s
spillways caused by last winter’s fierce storms has almost
doubled, state water officials said Thursday. … Jeff
Petersen, project manager for Kiewit, said that once
construction workers got on the site they discovered they had
to dig much deeper to get down to bedrock than they had
In one of the fastest-paced civic construction jobs in recent
U.S. history, hundreds of carpenters, operating engineers and
iron workers are rushing to complete repairs to the damaged
Oroville Dam spillway. The crews are trying to beat a Nov. 1
deadline and the Northern California rainy season, which once
again will begin to fill the massive reservoir behind the
nation’s highest dam.
A plan has been prepared for flood control operations this
rainy season at Oroville Dam, which call for keeping the lake
lower and aggressively releasing water if the water level rises
above trigger points. Up to now, the dam has been operated
under rules drafted by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1970,
which set a maximum lake surface elevation target of 848.5 feet
above sea level for November through April, and 870.1 feet in
This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries
through a scenic landscape as we 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. This year,
special attention was paid to the flood event at Oroville Dam and
the efforts to repair the dam spillway before the next rainy
The state Department of Water Resources intends to open the
spillway boat launch ramp after construction at the dam is
complete, but there is a possibility it will stay out of
commission, according to a department official. The spillway
boat launch is the largest on the lake, with up to 12 lanes
when the water is high enough.
With just more than two weeks until the initial reconstruction
of the main spillway at Lake Oroville is supposed to be
completed, the Department of Water Resources released
operations plan for the reservoir for this coming flood season.
In February, a huge hole opened in the Lake Oroville main
spillway. The cause of the hole is still undetermined. …
State and federal agencies devised a plan to quickly repair or
replace the structures at the lake.
Where are all the fish? That’s what hatchery workers are
wondering, left scratching their heads after seeing low levels
for spring-run Chinook salmon – about a third of the
average for this time period.
After big natural disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma,
federal officials often tighten up flood protection standards.
That’s what happened in California after Hurricane Katrina
twelve years ago. But many flood-prone communities are still
struggling to meet those standards, including Sacramento, one
of the riskiest flood zones in the country.