Lake Oroville Community Update - August 21, 2020


Boater on Lake Oroville.

Boater on Lake Oroville. DWR/2020

Potters Fire Impacts Area Around Oroville Dam

The Potters Fire, part of the Butte Lightning Complex of fires ignited by lightning strikes in the early morning of Monday, August 17, started in Potters Ravine near Oroville Dam’s Spillway Boat Launch area. The fire has burned nearly 1,000 acres, including areas adjacent to Oroville Dam’s main and emergency spillways and the Thermalito Diversion Pool.


The Department of Water Resources (DWR) continues to monitor the fire’s status and DWR operations are ongoing with essential staff on site. The fire did not damage Oroville Dam. The high voltage transmission lines that are used to provide generation to the California electrical grid have been assessed and show no signs of fire damage. DWR environmental staff are providing assessments of fire damage to vegetation and soils. Please see the Oroville Recreation section below for the current status of recreation facilities.


Oroville Recreation Update

The Potters Fire and smoke from other northern California fires have impacted area recreation. All Lake Oroville State Recreation Area (LOSRA) boat ramps, parking lots, and day use areas are open, including North and South Forebay facilities. Visitors are advised to be mindful of air quality and to stay away from fire-damaged areas.


The Oroville Dam Spillway Boat Ramp and day use area, previously closed due to the Potters Fire, has reopened for use 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. The nearby Potters Ravine trail complex experienced significant damage from the Potters Fire and will be closed indefinitely for rehabilitation work. Affected trails on the south side of the Thermalito Diversion Pool, including the Dan Beebe and Lakeland trails are open for use. The Brad Freeman Trail on the north side of the Diversion Pool, and Burma Road, remain closed as of August 21. Information about and current status of Lake Oroville recreation facilities is available on the DWR Lake Oroville Recreation webpage and on the LOSRA webpage.


The Lake Oroville Visitors Center remains closed and floating campsites and group campsites are not currently available to reduce the spread of COVID-19. For information about available State Parks camping, as well as COVID-19 public health requirements while recreating, visit


Oroville Dam Citizens Advisory Commission Meeting Held by California Natural Resources Agency

The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA), in accordance with Governor Newsom’s directives and to protect public health during the COVID-19 pandemic, held the fourth Oroville Dam Citizens Advisory Commission (CAC) meeting virtually on August 21 from 10 a.m. to noon. The meeting covered ongoing dam safety initiatives, including the Oroville Dam Safety Comprehensive Needs Assessment, and discussed planned improvements based on the study’s risk-assessment findings. DWR’s current and planned recreation improvement projects were highlighted and information about Lake Oroville State Recreation Area’s facilities was shared. The public was able to ask questions and make comments. The presentation slides are available on the CAC website and a video recording, transcript, and summary of the meeting will be added in the coming weeks.

The Oroville Dam Citizens Advisory Commission, created by Senate Bill 955 (Nielsen) in 2018, established a public forum for discussing issues related to Oroville Dam facilities. The Commission, housed within CNRA, represents the communities surrounding Oroville Dam for the purposes of providing public input as well as receiving information from state agencies related to the Oroville Dam, its related structures, the Feather River Fish Hatchery, and the Oroville-Thermalito Complex.


Postponed - PG&E Work to Close West Branch of Lake Oroville

Utility work by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) previously scheduled for Friday, August 21 on the West Branch of the Feather River at Lake Oroville – affecting boat traffic in the area – has been postponed. The work to remove conductors from transmission lines extending over the West Branch waterway near where it joins the Feather River’s North Fork of Lake Oroville is anticipated to be rescheduled later in August.


Grebes Nest Receive Help from DWR

Western and Clark’s grebes, with their distinctive red eyes, graceful necks and long yellow bills, have returned to the Thermalito Afterbay for their nesting season. The shallow nature of the Afterbay is perfect for these two species of grebes who, along with only a few other aquatic bird species, nest on the water. DWR voluntarily restricts the elevation of the Thermalito Afterbay because significant decreases in reservoir elevation could strand the nests out of the water or submerge them if elevations increase. Find more information about the grebes at the DWR Updates webpage. Photos can be found on DWR’s Pixel webpage – enter Grebes in the search bar after creating a user name and password to log in.


Oroville Area Algal Blooms Status

DWR environmental scientists regularly monitor Lake Oroville, the Thermalito North Forebay, and the Thermalito Afterbay for cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) and their toxins. There are currently no Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) advisories for Lake Oroville, the Thermalito Forebay, or the Thermalito Afterbay.


Algal blooms continue to be present in many locations around Lake Oroville. Lab analysis of water samples from these water bodies continues to find minimal or no amounts of cyanobacteria in the algae. Sampling continues weekly and if elevated levels of cyanobacteria or toxins are found, DWR staff will work with California’s Regional Water Quality Control Board and recreation area managers to notify the public and post advisory signs at the affected waterbody. Non-toxic algal blooms can be irritating or even dangerous to pets and small children. To learn more about HABs, visit the Water Board’s website and DWR’s digital article on the DWR Updates webpage. The public is encouraged to report algal blooms on the HAB reporting webpage.


Online Water Education Program Returns to the DWR YouTube Channel

Join us for Water Wednesdays at 1 p.m. on DWR’s YouTube channel and learn all about salmon over the next few weeks. 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. We’re kicking off the fall season with a five-part look at the lifecycle of the Chinook salmon that spawn in the Feather River, travel downriver, through the Delta, and finally to the ocean. Interested participants can pre-register through Zoom which will allow them 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 756 feet and storage is about 1.73 million acre-feet. Daily average inflows to the lake have ranged between 1,485 cfs (cubic feet per second) to 2,462 over the past week. High temperatures will continue into the week of August 24. The Northern Sierra Basin rainfall totals remains below average for the year, at 63 percent of normal.

The total releases to Feather River are 2,300 cfs to meet downstream Bay-Delta water quality and flow standards. Flows through the City of Oroville are about 950 cfs. Flows from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet (Outlet) are about 1,350 cfs for a total of 2,300 cfs for the Feather River’s high flow channel downstream of the Outlet. Throughout the week flows through the City of Oroville and the Outlet may fluctuate for fisheries purposes.

Additionally, in response to energy demands from the recent heat wave, DWR increased power generation from Hyatt Power Plant by increasing Feather River releases by 500 cfs August 18-20. Flows return to 2,300 on August 21.


All data as of midnight 8/20/2020