DWR April Snow Survey
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) conducted the fourth snow survey at the Phillips Station snow course (El Dorado County) on April 1. The manual survey recorded 49.5 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent (SWE) of 21 inches, which is 83 percent of average for this location. The SWE measures the amount of water contained in the snowpack and is a key component of DWR’s water supply forecast. April 1 is typically when California’s snowpack is the deepest and has the highest SWE.
While the Southern Sierra remains well below average for both rain and snow, the picture is somewhat different in the Northern and Central part of the state where California typically receives 75 percent of the state’s annual precipitation. The few storms that impacted California this year have been colder, bringing more snow than rain. Colder systems are good for the Sierra snowpack, which accounts for 30 percent of California’s fresh water supply in an average year.
For Water Year 2021, the snowpack in the Northern and Central Sierra peaked at 70 percent of average; however, rain is below 50 percent of average, which ties this year for the third driest year on record. The amount of water expected to enter California’s reservoirs when the snowpack melts is projected to be just 58 percent of average. The full news release is available on DWR’s website.
DWR Adjusts State Water Project Allocation
As California experiences a second consecutive dry year, DWR announced on March 23 an adjustment to its initial State Water Project (SWP) allocation for the 2021 water year. The Department now expects the SWP to deliver 5 percent of requested supplies this year, down from the initial allocation of 10 percent announced in December.
Allocations represent the amount of SWP water that DWR will deliver to 27 million Californians and 750,000 acres of farmland for the year and are reviewed monthly based on several factors, such as water in storage, environmental requirements, and rain and snowmelt runoff projections.
Drought conditions have a significant impact on the state’s water supply. Lake Oroville storage is only at 53 percent of its historical average. Beginning April 6, outflows to the Feather River will be further reduced to conserve storage while maintaining the Feather River flows necessary for fishery, environmental, and water delivery needs. More information on the allocation change is available in the DWR News Release.
Additional Campgrounds Open at Lake Oroville
The California Department of Parks and Recreation (CA Parks) has opened up reservations for the Bloomer Point, Bloomer Knoll, and Bloomer Cove boat-in campgrounds, the Foreman Creek boat-in campground, and the floating campgrounds located around Lake Oroville. Reservations for camping can be made online by selecting the ‘Reservations’ tab on the Lake Oroville State Recreation Area (LOSRA) webpage. Group camping sites remain closed due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
The Lime Saddle, Bidwell Canyon, and Spillway boat ramps are open for use. Bidwell Canyon and Lime Saddle boat ramps are open 24-hours per day and the Spillway boat ramp is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. The Loafer Creek Boat Ramp remains out of the water. Construction of the brand-new Loafer Point Boat Ramp is nearing completion and will be open later this spring. All day use facilities at Lake Oroville State Recreation Area (LOSRA) are open. The Lake Oroville Visitor Center remains closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
DWR and CA Parks invite outdoor enthusiasts to visit the area’s 91 miles of trails, including the 41-mile long Brad Freeman Trail. Mountain bikers, hikers, equestrians, and bicyclists can find trail information on DWR’s interactive map on the Lake Oroville Recreation webpage.
Visit the California Parks 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.
Goats to Reduce Vegetation Near Diversion Pool
The arrival of 350 to 400 goats from Hanski Family Farms LLC to the Lakeland Boulevard area was delayed this week but is now set to begin on Saturday, April 3. DWR partnered with the Butte County Fire Safe Council (BCFSC) on this grazing project to reduce hazardous fuels on approximately five acres. The goats should be in the area for about one week.
The goats will graze on grasses, leaves, invasive and non-invasive plants including poison oak, and a variety of shrubs and trees. The grazing area will be cordoned off with an electric fence and monitored by herders and livestock guardian dogs to protect the animals. The public is urged to stay clear of the electric fence and keep pets away, so the goats are not disturbed.
This work is part of DWR’s Fuel Load Management Program, which was started in 2012 to reduce hazardous fuels within the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) project boundary. DWR, along with partners CAL FIRE, the California Conservation Corps, BCFSC, Butte County Sheriff’s Office, and California Department of State Parks and Recreation (CA Parks), are all working together to accomplish the same common goal -- reduce wildfire risk, increase public safety, and enhance forest health in areas around Lake Oroville. To date, approximately 675 acres have been treated around the Lake Oroville area by DWR and its partners.
Current Lake Operations
The elevation of Oroville’s reservoir is about 722 feet elevation and storage is about 1.43 million acre-feet -- 41 percent full and 54 percent of historical average. Currently, in the Northern Sierra Basin, rainfall is below average, at 51 percent of normal for this time of year and snowpack is also below average at 63 percent of normal. Less than a half an inch of rain is forecasted Sunday and Monday with cooler temperatures and a slight chance of rain forecasted during the week of April 5.
On April 1, DWR increased total releases to the Feather River to 1,500 cfs to provide a pulse flow to assist in the out-migration of Feather River Hatchery Spring-run Chinook salmon that were released on April 1 into the Feather River at the Boyd’s Pump Boat Launch.
On April 3, DWR will begin ramping down total releases to the Feather River by 200 cfs a day. By April 6, total flows to the Feather River are planned to be at 800 cfs to conserve storage with 600 cfs down the low flow channel through the City of Oroville and 200 cfs from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet (Outlet) for a total of 800 cfs for the Feather River’s high flow channel downstream of the outlet.
The public can track precipitation, snow, reservoir levels, and more at the California Data Exchange Center at www.cdec.water.ca.gov. Lake Oroville is identified as “ORO”.
All data as of midnight 4/1/2021