Bear/North Complex Fire Impacts Oroville
Butte County’s Bear Fire, now named “North Complex – West Zone Fire”, has burned over 78,000 acres with 43 percent containment as of Friday, Sept. 18. The fire has severely damaged communities around Lake Oroville, including several Lake Oroville State Recreation Area (LOSRA) facilities.
Locations along the North Fork of Lake Oroville, as well as areas on the Middle and South Forks, remain active fire zones. 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, many 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 (CA Parks) staff to ensure employee and public safety. CA Parks staff are providing support to firefighters by boat from Lake Oroville, and a camp for fire support has been established at the Loafer Creek recreation area – which is still closed to the public. 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, many Lake Oroville State Recreation Area (LORSA) facilities are closed until further notice, including boat launches, day use areas, and trails. The Bidwell Canyon and Lime Saddle marinas are open only for houseboat owners who may access their houseboats with proof of ownership. No overnight houseboat stays or boating is allowed on Lake Oroville.
Oroville Dam Crest Road across the top of Oroville Dam is open to bicyclists and pedestrians. Although the Spillway Boat Ramp and Day Use Area are closed, the newly opened Brad Freeman Trail down to the Thermalito Diversion Pool may be accessed from the new gravel parking lot at the north side of the Spillway Day Use Area. The Diversion Pool is now open to non-motorized watercraft. All other trails around Lake Oroville are currently closed. The Dan Beebe Trail on the south side of the Diversion Pool; the North and South Forebay Recreation Areas; and the Clay Pit State Vehicular Recreation Area are all open. The Forebay Aquatic Center at the North Forebay is temporarily closed.
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, CA Parks LOSRA webpage, and the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife 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 opened the fish ladder on 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, including kayak ‘floats’ organized by the Forebay Aquatic Center to watch salmon in the Feather River Sept. 26 and Sept. 27. Information about the Festival, and a link to sign up for the kayak ‘floats’, 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.
Diversion Pool Trails and Area Roadways to Close for Utility Work
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) crews are scheduled to remove three conductors from the Caribou-Palermo 115KV transmission line that crosses the Thermalito Diversion Pool Sept. 18 through Sept. 25. Visitors and area residents will see helicopter activity in the area during conductor removal.
Portions of the Brad Freeman Trail north and south of the Thermalito Diversion Pool; the Dan Beebe Trail; and areas around the trailhead on Lakeland Boulevard on the south side of the Diversion Pool will close for various periods Sept. 18 to Sept. 25. Traffic on Lakeland Boulevard west of Reyman Street will also experience temporary delays when work is occurring on the conductors crossing the road. Signage regarding upcoming work will be posted on area trails in advance of closures. Visitors are reminded to be safe and obey access restrictions.
Bidwell Canyon Boat Ramp Improvement Project
The Bidwell Canyon Boat Ramp Stage Two Improvement Project was temporarily halted due to the North Complex – West Zone fire. The project plans to resume work in the upcoming week. Kelly Ridge and Arroyo Drive residents can expect to see large construction equipment, as well as rock and concrete deliveries, in the area from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays as the contractor works to complete the project by mid-November. This is a continuation of 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.
Current Lake Operations
The elevation of Oroville’s reservoir is about 749 feet and storage is about 1.67 million acre-feet. Daily average inflows to the lake have ranged between 1,963 cfs (cubic feet per second) to 2,653 over the past week. Temperatures continue to be relatively moderate into the week of Sept. 21 as the temperatures are forecast to be in the 80s. 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 9/17/2020