Lake Oroville Community Update - August 4, 2023


An aerial view of high water conditions at the Feather River Fish Barrier Dam and Thermalito Diversion Dam in Oroville, California, located in Butte County. Photo taken June 20, 2023.

An aerial view of high water conditions at the Feather River Fish Barrier Dam and Thermalito Diversion Dam in Oroville, California, located in Butte County. Photo taken June 20, 2023.

Feather River Fish Monitoring Station

DWR has completed the installation of a fish monitoring station in the Feather River about five miles downstream of Oroville. The fish monitoring structure guides fish past an underwater video camera that allows biologists to review footage and determine abundance, run timing, and origin (hatchery or natural) of steelhead and Chinook salmon populations. This information will improve management of these important fish populations in the Feather River and at the Feather River Fish Hatchery. 


There are several of these structures already operating in rivers throughout California and they are designed to facilitate safe boat passage. Informational signs will be posted at boat launches and near the monitoring station to assist river users in navigating over the structure. Those in more portable water vessels also have the option to use the riverbank and walk around the monitoring station.


The fish monitoring station is located approximately 6.5 miles downstream of the Feather River Fish Hatchery, 4.5 miles downstream of the Riverbend Park Boat Ramp, and 1.5 miles upstream of the Thermalito Afterbay River Outlet Boat Ramp. 


Salmon Habitat Project

DWR began construction this week on a salmonid habitat improvement project in the Feather River near the Feather River Fish Hatchery and Bedrock Park in Oroville. In development since 2021, the project consists of in-river spawning gravel placement to improve existing spawning habitat sites and will also improve habitat accessibility to existing side channels by excavating and redistributing accumulated streambed material. Migratory fish species such as Chinook salmon and steelhead trout rely on Feather River spawning habitats along the low-flow channel, where most spawning activity occurs. Female salmonids lay their eggs in nests called “redds” using coarse sediment, such as clean, rounded gravel.


Starting Monday, Aug. 7, people floating down the Feather River in this area may encounter “traffic control” along the waterway. Construction flaggers with stop signs will be stationed in the river to alert water users of nearby heavy construction equipment and direct water traffic safely through the construction zone. River recreationists are encouraged to remain alert when passing through work zones.


DWR’s project is placing approximately 8,000 cubic yards of gravel at multiple locations to improve spawning conditions. The project is primarily funded by two grants: the State of California Natural Resource Agency Prop 68 – Protecting California’s Rivers, Streams and Watershed Grant Program, and the Central Valley Project Improvement Act – Fish and Wildlife Restoration Activities supported by the U.S. Department of Interior. Previous DWR Feather River spawning restoration projects included the placement of 8,300 cubic yards of spawning gravel in 2014 and another 5,000 cubic yards in 2017. In-river work for the project is expected to last through the end of August.


Oroville Recreation

Visitors continue to enjoy the abundant recreation facilities at the Lake Oroville State Recreation Area. All major boat ramps are open and, with numerous launching lanes and available parking, wait times are at a minimum. Floating campsite reservations remain popular with campgrounds throughout the Recreation Area also offering close access for water activities. The marinas at Bidwell Canyon and Lime Saddle are open daily and provide a variety of services including a convenience store, gas, and boat rentals. The North Forebay Aquatic Center has several summertime programs, and the Thermalito Afterbay has been a popular recreation spot for water skiers, jet skiers, and anglers. 


The Lake Oroville Visitor Center is open Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The Visitor Center offers numerous educational exhibits, a theater featuring videos about the building of Oroville Dam, walking and hiking trails, and a 47-foot-tall observation tower providing unsurpassed panoramic views.


DWR, State Parks, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife also maintain over 92 miles of trails in the Oroville area. An interactive map of recreation facilities, including open boat ramps, and their permitted uses (hike, bike, horse, multi) is available on DWR’s Lake Oroville Recreation webpage. A paper trail map is available at various locations, including most entrance kiosks and the Visitor Center.


Current Lake Operations

Lake Oroville is at 877 feet elevation and storage is approximately 3.19 million acre-feet (MAF), which is 90 percent of its total capacity and 137 percent of the historical average.


Feather River releases are currently at 6,500 cfs. Flows through the City of Oroville are at 2,000 cfs and releases from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet (Outlet) are at 4,500 cfs for a total of 6,500 cfs downstream of the Outlet. Further increases in flow through the City of Orville are expected next week for fisheries purposes. DWR continues to assess releases to the Feather River daily.


DWR will use the main spillway intermittently this summer for water releases to manage storage within the Oroville complex or maintain Feather River temperature levels during ongoing river valve outlet system work near the Hyatt Powerplant. When the main spillway is not in use, water may still be seen on the main spillway outlet as the seals on the eight radial gates are not designed to be watertight. The gate seals do not play a role in the structural integrity of the gates, which continue to operate as intended. DWR periodically maintains and adjusts the seals during low-reservoir conditions to improve their sealing capability. The radial gates were also last inspected and tested in Dec. 2022.


Visitors to Oroville Dam may also notice minor amounts of water flowing from drains built into the emergency spillway. As the reservoir level has increased, water flow from the drains has increased, which is normal and expected with the emergency spillway design. The dam and emergency spillway continue to operate as intended.


The public can track precipitation, snow, reservoir levels, and more at the California Data Exchange Center. The Lake Oroville gage station is identified as “ORO”.


All data as of midnight 8/3/2023.