Lake Oroville Community Update - October 16, 2020


An aerial overview of the recently completed Lake Oroville main spillway during Phase 2 of the recovery efforts.

Aerial view of Lake Oroville, including the Lake Oroville main spillway, in 2019. DWR/2019

Fire Impacts to Lake Oroville
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is a member of the post-fire task force led by the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal-OES). The task force is a multi-agency team that will evaluate and identify areas of concern in the watershed. They will coordinate and prioritize actions to address erosion, debris runoff, and water quality impacts to the watersheds impacted by wildfire.

DWR environmental scientists actively monitor Lake Oroville for water quality, algal blooms, and other environmental concerns, including wildfire impacts. After the 2018 Camp Fire, DWR installed additional monitoring stations. The data collected by DWR environmental scientists did not show long-term impacts to water quality in Lake Oroville.


As part of routine maintenance year-round, DWR takes steps to reduce erosion on the lake’s shoreline. The clearing of debris entering Lake Oroville is part of ongoing DWR maintenance of Lake Oroville to protect boaters and ensure safe operation of the dam facilities.


Oroville Recreation

The Lime Saddle and Oroville Dam Spillway boat ramps are open and the Bidwell Canyon boat launch is open on weekends while construction, expected to be completed in November, is underway. (See below for information.) Bidwell Canyon and Lake Oroville (Lime Saddle) marinas are open for normal operation under regular winter schedules. Visit the CA Parks Lake Oroville State Recreation Area (LOSRA) webpage for current information on facility status as well as current requirements to protect public health during the COVID-19 pandemic.


The Potter’s Ravine and North Fork trails near the Spillway boat launch area and trails in the Loafer Creek recreation area are closed to repair fire damage. Enterprise, Stringtown, and Foreman Creek boat ramp areas, the Loafer Creek Recreation Area, and Lake Oroville Visitor Center also remain closed. Current recreation facility information can also be found on DWR’s Lake Oroville Recreation webpage. Information for the Oroville Wildlife Area, including the Thermalito Afterbay, is available on the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife webpage.


Bidwell Canyon Boat Ramp Closed Weekdays for Facility Improvements

The Bidwell Canyon boat ramp will be closed weekdays, Monday through Friday, from Oct. 5 to Nov. 18, to continue construction started in 2018 to expand the parking area and provide two additional boat ramp lanes to 700 feet. The boat ramp will open at 5 a.m. on Saturdays and close at midnight Sundays. Kelly Ridge and Arroyo Drive residents should anticipate large construction equipment and rock and concrete deliveries in the area.


Installation of Piezometers Completed at Oroville Dam 

Data collected from four new piezometers installed at the headworks of Oroville Dam’s main, or flood control outlet (FCO) spillway will be used to confirm drain performance, inform on-going structural modeling and analyses, and direct future improvements to the FCO structure which houses eight gates to control water flow down the spillway.


This work, completed on Oct. 5, is part of early implementation of the Oroville Dam Safety Comprehensive Needs Assessment (CNA), which is focused on identifying priorities and appropriate solutions to bolster the integrity and resiliency of the Oroville Dam complex to ensure public safety. Several piezometers were originally installed in the dam over fifty years ago which, as anticipated, have since stopped functioning. DWR continues its work to install additional instrumentation throughout the facility to provide ongoing, real-time data to DWR engineers, including eight new piezometers installed earlier this year at the base of Oroville Dam.


Chinook Salmon Return to the Feather River
Chinook salmon continue to return home to the Feather River to lay eggs for the next generation of salmon. The Feather River Fish Hatchery’s spawning operations – which enable millions of Chinook salmon to be released to the river every spring – is underway, but the hatchery is not open for tours this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Viewing Area near the Feather River’s Fish Diversion Dam north of the
Hatchery remains open to visitors. The public is urged to maintain physical distancing and abide by requirements for mask-wearing to protect personal health and the health of others.

The Forebay Aquatic Center at the North Forebay State Recreation Area has closed for the season but they are hosting kayak floats on the Feather River from the Feather River Fish Hatchery to Riverbend Park to view the returning salmon Oct. 17 and Oct. 24. Visit their webpage for registration information.


DWR’s Water Wednesdays Feature Flood Preparedness
Winter is coming and Water Wednesdays continues its look at how DWR prepares for severe winter storms and flood events, and how you can be prepared too. 
These family-friendly programs are designed for kids 10 to 14 but are appropriate for anyone who would like to learn more about California’s water resources. The episodes are live, allowing participants who have signed up on Zoom to ask real time questions of the speaker.

Visit the DWR Events webpage at to join or register for next Wednesday’s chat. Information will also be posted on DWR’s social media pages at @CA_DWR (Twitter) and @CADWR (Facebook). Water Wednesdays began in May 2020 and previous episodes are available on DWR’s YouTube channel – enter Water Wednesdays in the search bar.


Current Lake Operations
The elevation of Oroville’s reservoir is about 739 feet and storage is about 1.57 million acre-feet. Daily average inflows to the lake have ranged between 877 cfs (cubic feet per second) to 2,454 cfs over the past week. Weather will be warm in the low to mid-80s Oct. 17 to Oct. 18. During the week of Oct. 19, temperatures are projected to slightly cool through the week from the mid-80’s to mid-70’s.   

The total releases to Feather River continue at 2,450 cfs to meet downstream Bay-Delta water quality and flow standards. The Feather River flows consist of 800 cfs through the Low Flow Channel adjacent to the City of Oroville, and 1,650 cfs from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet (Outlet) for a total of 2,450 cfs for the Feather River’s high flow channel downstream of the Outlet. 


All data as of midnight 10/15/2020