Bear/North Complex Fire Impacts Oroville
The Bear Fire, ignited by lightning strikes on Aug. 17, swelled into a fire storm on Tuesday, Sept. 8 with the onset of an intense wind event. As it merged with another lightning-sparked fire near Quincy, it became known as the North Complex Fire. The Butte County “Bear Fire” portion, now named “the North Complex’s West Zone”, has burned over 70,000 acres with five percent containment as of Friday, Sept. 11. The fire has severely damaged communities around Lake Oroville, including several Lake Oroville State Recreation Area (LOSRA) facilities.
The Loafer Creek recreation area remains an active fire zone as do areas around the Enterprise Boat Ramp, Foreman Creek and other locations along the Middle and North Forks of Lake Oroville. The Bidwell Canyon Marina and Lime Saddle Marina have not sustained damage and there are currently no risks to Oroville Dam or its related structures. Due to continuing fire behavior, all LOSRA facilities are currently closed. (See more recreation information below)
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) continues to monitor the fire’s status and is actively working with CALFIRE, local law enforcement partners, and California State Parks staff to ensure employee and public safety. DWR’s water delivery and other critical operations are ongoing with essential staff on site.
Oroville Recreation Closures Update
Due to fire impacts and continued danger to the public from the North Complex – West Zone fire, all Lake Oroville State Recreation Area facilities are closed until further notice, including the North Forebay and Clay Pit State Vehicular Recreation Area. The Oroville Wildlife Area, including the Thermalito Afterbay remain open from 1.5 hours before sunrise to one hour after sunset. Current recreation facility information can be found on DWR’s Lake Oroville Recreation webpage and the LOSRA webpage. See below for information about the Feather River Fish Hatchery.
Chinook Salmon Return to the Feather River
Chinook salmon are completing their life cycle and returning home to the Feather River to lay eggs for the next generation of salmon. The Feather River Fish Hatchery plans to open up the fish ladder the week of Sept. 14 to begin hatchery spawning operations which enables millions of Chinook salmon to be released to the river every spring. In order to protect public health during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hatchery will not be open for tours this year. Visitors can still enjoy seeing salmon climb the fish ladder at the Viewing Area near the Feather River’s Fish Diversion Dam north of the Hatchery.
Oroville’s annual Salmon Festival has been scaled down to protect public health with only a few activities scheduled. Information about the Festival can be found on the Oroville Area Chamber of Commerce website.
Learn all about Salmon – DWR’s Water Wednesdays
The Feather River Fish Hatchery is closed but you can still learn about salmon this month through DWR’s Water Wednesdays program at 1 p.m. on DWR’s YouTube channel. 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 fall season began Aug. 26 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 https://water.ca.gov/News/Events 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.
Area Projects Postponed Due to Fire
The Bidwell Canyon Boat Ramp Stage Two Improvement Project to continue on a project that started in Fall 2018 to expand the Stage Two parking area and provide two additional Stage Two boat ramp lanes to 700 feet has been halted due to the North Complex – West Zone fire.
The Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) project to remove three conductors from the Caribou-Palermo 115KV transmission line that crosses the Thermalito Diversion Pool, previously scheduled Sept. 8 through Sept. 16 has also been postponed due to the North Complex – West Zone fire.
Current Lake Operations
The elevation of Oroville’s reservoir is about 749 feet and storage is about 1.67 million acre-feet. Continued reprieve from the extreme heat is expected into the week of Sept. 14 where temperatures are forecasted in the low 90s and dropping into the 80s later in the week. The Northern Sierra Basin rainfall totals remains below average for the year, at 62 percent of normal.
The total releases to Feather River continue at 2,100 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 1,300 cfs from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet for a total of 2,100 cfs for the Feather River’s high flow channel downstream of the Outlet.
All data as of midnight 9/10/2020