Lake Oroville Community Update - April 17, 2020


An aerial view of Bidwell Bar Bridge at Lake Oroville

An aerial view of Bidwell Bar Bridge at Lake Oroville. DWR/2019

Oroville Field Division Work Continues

Oroville Field Division (OFD) staff continue to carry out essential duties including operations of Oroville Dam and affiliated power plants, facility maintenance, and monitoring activities. Following guidance from Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Public Health, OFD has made several changes in response to the dynamic public health emergency including social distancing, telework, and increased sanitary precautions for staff.


Please remember that California's water treatment process removes and kills viruses, including COVID-19. Additionally, tap water is cheaper, easily accessible, and doesn't contribute to plastics pollution.


Fire Suppression System Work to Impact Oroville Dam Waterline

A project to install fire suppression systems at the Oroville Project Headquarters office trailers at Oroville Dam’s Upper Overlook is anticipated to require a temporary shut-off of the waterline across Oroville Dam for an approximately 12-hour period during the week of April 20. Restrooms at the entrance to Oroville Dam will be closed during this time. The shut-off will also temporarily decrease the water pressure inflating the rubber seals around the spillway gates allowing additional seepage to be visible on the main spillway.


Installation of Piezometers at Oroville Dam Completed

DWR contractors have completed installation of eight new piezometers at the base of the dam. These moisture-sensing devices will further DWR’s efforts to monitor seepage and will be used to confirm the seepage measurements DWR already collects. Seepage is normal and expected, especially in large, earthen dams like Oroville. Seepage is measured and collected through a drainage system. If seepage were to change dramatically, it would indicate an issue that would need further investigation.

This work is part of the 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. There were 56 piezometers initially installed in the dam fifty years ago which, as anticipated, have since stopped functioning. DWR plans to install additional piezometers throughout the facility in the coming years.

Oroville and Upper Feather River Lakes Closures Update

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the recreation facilities associated with the Lake Oroville State Recreation Area have been closed, as well as the Lake Oroville Visitors Center and public access to the Feather River Fish Hatchery.


The U.S. Forest Service closed all developed recreation sites indefinitely including boat launch facilities and campgrounds at the State Water Project facilities of Frenchman Lake, Lake Davis, and Antelope Lake in Plumas County. For information on Forest Service facilities, find your national forest at Information regarding the status of California Department of Parks and Recreation facilities can be found at “Flatten the Curve at State Parks”. Information regarding the Oroville Wildlife Area, including the Thermalito Afterbay, can be found at or by calling (916) 358-2900.


Feather River Fiesta Days Community Event Postponed

The Oroville Feather Fiesta Days Planning Committee has postponed the May 9, 2020 Feather River Fiesta Days event due to the ongoing public health emergency. The Committee is considering holding the event this summer if community gatherings are permitted at that time. Information can be found on the Feather Fiesta Days Facebook page @FeatherFiestaDays.


DWR Continues Brush Clearing Work

DWR continues to implement the Fuel Load Management Plan (FLMP) which aims to reduce wildfire risk, improve public safety, and enhance forest health around Lake Oroville. Crews continues to remove hazardous fuels, including overstocked trees and underbrush, from approximately 9.5 acres at project sites near the Nelson Bar Car-top Boat Launch and along Oroville Dam Boulevard East near the Hyatt Powerplant.

Current Lake Operations

The elevation of Oroville’s reservoir is about 819 feet and storage is about 2.41 million acre-feet. Daily average inflows to the lake have ranged between 5,374 cfs (cubic feet per second) to 6,471 cfs over the past week. 

There is a slight chance of rain early in the week of April 20. Currently, in the Northern Sierra Basin, rainfall is below average, at 59 percent of normal, and snowpack is also below average, measuring 61 percent of normal for this time of year.

On Friday April 17, flows through the City of Oroville will start ramping down from 1300 cubic feet per second (cfs) and will gradually reach 650 cfs by Wednesday, April 22. This is the culmination of a 2-week temporary “flow pulse” that DWR provided for the benefit of juvenile salmon and steelhead in the Feather River. Releases from the Thermalito Afterbay were adjusted during this time period so that the total flow to the Feather River below the Thermalito Afterbay remained constant at 1,550 cfs. This total release of 1,550 cfs to the Feather River below the Thermalito Afterbay will continue.


All data as of midnight 4/16/20