Lake Oroville Community Update - December 23, 2020


boat on Lake Oroville

Boater on Lake Oroville. DWR/2019

Oroville Recreation and Boating Access

The Bidwell Canyon Stage II boat launch facility, intermittently closed for construction of a new parking lot and expanded boat launch lanes, will be open through Dec. 27th. Construction on the access road will require closure of the ramp Monday through Wednesday, Dec. 28 to Dec. 30. Access to the Bidwell Canyon boat ramp facility will resume on Thursday, Dec. 31.

An unpaved low water boat launch at Oroville Dam’s Spillway boat ramp area is available to experienced drivers of 4-wheel drive vehicles only. Until lake levels rise to bring more Lake Oroville boat ramps back into service, the Bidwell Canyon and Spillway boat ramp areas are the only two facilities available to launch trailered boats. Construction and launching conditions are subject to change due to weather, changing lake levels, or other variables. For information, contact the Department of Water Resources at 916-213-5205.

Area trails and day use areas are open for hikers, bikers, and equestrians. Information on trail restrictions and access status can be found in DWR’s interactive map on the Lake Oroville Recreation webpage. Visit the California 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. 

For information about the Oroville Wildlife Area, including the Thermalito Afterbay, visit the California Department of Fish and Wildlife webpage. Enterprise, Stringtown, and Foreman Creek boat ramp areas, LOSRA campgrounds, and Lake Oroville Visitor Center remain closed.The

A Year in Review

The year 2020 has been a unique and challenging year! Faced with COVID-19 public health restrictions and both the Potters Ravine and North Complex fires, the Department of Water Resources’ Oroville Field Division (OFD) met the challenge of operating the Oroville-Thermalito Complex smoothly. Today, we would like to share a few highlights here at the Oroville-Thermalito Complex:

Throughout the winter and spring of 2020, OFD maintenance crews cleared nearly 20 acres of floating debris from Lake Oroville. Floating debris can damage boats and injure water sports enthusiasts. Increased efforts are planned for this winter and next spring due to anticipated impacts from the North Complex Fire’s extensive burn scar across all three forks of the Feather River.

The DWR hydroelectric power plants were able to quickly respond to State requests for increased power during times of high energy demand this summer. The hydroelectric power plants in the Oroville Thermalito Complex are a source of clean energy to the region’s electrical grid. The return of the Ronald B. Robie Thermalito Pumping-Generating Plant to full operational capacity, after being damaged by fire in 2012, was a welcome addition to that effort.

Another welcome addition, this one at Lake Oroville State Recreation Area’s Loafer Point, is the construction of a completely new boat launch area. The first boat ramp, Stage I, has been completed. It provides three boat launch lanes of access to 800 feet elevation (above sea level), along with lighted parking and other amenities. Stage II, with six launching lanes and a lower level lighted parking lot, is currently under construction. Stage II will allow boaters to enter the lake when lake elevations are below 805 feet and anticipates providing access to as low as 640 feet - a welcome opportunity for boaters and fishing enthusiasts in late summer or in drought years when lake levels are very low.

Area fisheries received a boost this year as the Feather River Fish Hatchery, (owned by DWR and operated by California Department of Fish and Wildlife) spawned, raised, and released nearly nine million juvenile steelhead and salmon to area rivers, lakes, and bays. Since the hatchery was closed to protect public health, area visitors and thousands of school children who tour every year were unable to see the hatchery in full operation. DWR produced a virtual tour of the hatchery for area teachers and the public.

After eight years of successful partnerships with federal, state, local, and Butte County non-governmental organizations through the DWR Fuel Load Management Program (FLMP), DWR learned that FLMP projects in the Loafer Creek State Recreation Area to thin and remove ladder fuels, dead, dying, and overgrown vegetation and thin unhealthy, overstocked trees was credited with slowing the North Complex Fire in Loafer Creek, enabling firefighters to gain and maintain control of a fire line that protected Kelly Ridge and the City of Oroville.

Public safety is DWR’s highest priority. The completion of the Oroville Dam Safety Comprehensive Needs Assessment (CNA) which identified dam safety and operational needs for the Oroville Dam and its related structures has already, and will continue to inform, future facility improvements. This summer’s installation of piezometers to monitor the seepage normally associated with earthen dams, along with piezometers in the headworks of the of the main spillway’s gates, to aid monitoring efforts, are two examples of early implementation of CNA recommendations.

DWR is looking forward to initiating and completing more projects in 2021 at the Oroville-Thermalito Complex. The Lake Oroville Community Update will continue to share news and information with the community. Your thoughts, comments, and questions to are always welcome.


Current Lake Operations

The elevation of Oroville’s reservoir is about 698 feet and storage is about 1.24 million acre-feet. Currently, in the Northern Sierra Basin, rainfall is below average, at 35 percent of normal for this time of year and snowpack is also below average at 49 percent of normal. Less than 2 inches of rain is forecasted in the Feather River Basin Friday through Sunday with a continuing chance of rain and snow in the higher elevations during the week of Dec. 28. 

During the week of Dec. 21, total releases to the Feather River were reduced to 1,350 cfs to conserve storage. The Feather River flows consist of 800 cfs through the Low Flow Channel adjacent to the City of Oroville, and 550 cfs from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet (Outlet) for a total of 1,350 cfs for the Feather River’s high flow channel downstream of the Outlet. Additional flow reductions to the Feather River are anticipated during the week of Dec. 28 to conserve storage. 

All data as of midnight 12/22/2020