Bald Eagles Build New Nest
A nesting pair of bald eagles that lost their nest tree in the North Complex Fire have returned. Environmental scientists with the Department of Water Resources have located a newly built nest in an undamaged tree within their territory and observed nesting activity on the new nest by the pair.
Lake Oroville and the Feather River area provide ideal habitat for bald eagles. Fish are one of the eagles’ main food sources and large water bodies like Lake Oroville provide a wide variety of fish as well as other favorite food sources such as waterfowl, small birds, and mammals. The many trees and snags (tall dead trees) near water areas provide prime nesting, roosting, and hunting locations.
Protecting the area’s year-round bald eagle population living in the Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) Oroville-Thermalito Complex jurisdiction is the responsibility of the Oroville Field Division’s Environmental Scientists. The bald eagle is a protected species under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940. They were listed as an endangered species in 1978. Those protections have been successful, and the species is now federally delisted. DWR’s scientists monitor for and, if necessary, act against threats such as public intrusions, habitat loss, or other impacts to the eagles’ nesting areas.
Monument Hill Facility Closure
The Monument Hill Boat Ramp and Day Use Area’s boat ramp and beach on the Thermalito Afterbay, off Highway 162 near State Route 99, will be closed March 3 and March 4 for maintenance. DWR will be improving the facilities by replacing eroded sand on the beach and addressing issues with the boarding float at the boat launch.
The nearby Wilbur Road Boat Ramp facility will be available for boat launching into the Thermalito Afterbay. Additionally, the Car-top Boat Ramp on Larkin Road remains open. The public is reminded of the 5-miles per hour boating speed limit on the portion of the Thermalito Afterbay north of the Highway 162 bridge.
The Thermalito Afterbay, part of DWR’s Oroville-Thermalito Complex, is a large water supply reservoir in the Oroville Wildlife Area (OWA). The OWA is administered for DWR by California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).
The Lake Oroville State Recreation Area (LOSRA) campgrounds at Bidwell Canyon, Loafer Creek – including the Equestrian Campground, and the Lime Saddle Campground are open. Group camping, including floating campgrounds, and boat-in campgrounds remain closed. Reservation capability does not open until April and camping sites will be allocated on a ‘first come-first serve’ basis.
The Potters Ravine and North Fork trails are open for use. California Department of Parks and Recreation (CA Parks) encourages users to remain on the trails. Assessments by CA Parks staff of trail safety are ongoing. All day use facilities at Lake Oroville State Recreation Area (LOSRA) are open. The Lake Oroville Visitor Center remains closed.
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. Information about recreation facilities can be found in DWR’s interactive map on the Lake Oroville Recreation webpage. For information about the Oroville Wildlife Area, including the Thermalito Afterbay, visit the California Department of Fish and Wildlife webpage.
Lake Oroville Boat Ramps
The Lime Saddle Boat Ramp is now open for use along with Bidwell Canyon and Spillway boat ramps. Bidwell Canyon and Lime Saddle boat ramps are open 24-hours per day and the Spillway boat ramps are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. The Lake Oroville Marina at Lime Saddle is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and the Bidwell Canyon Marina is open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The Loafer Creek boat ramps remain out of the water.
The Loafer Point Stage II boat ramp project to construct six boat launch lanes and 180 trailered parking spaces to allow boaters to enter the lake when lake levels are below 805 feet elevation is nearing completion. This year’s low lake levels provided DWR the opportunity to build the ramp down to elevation 703 feet. When the lake levels are lower due to dry years in the future, the ramp will be extended to lower lake elevations.
The Loafer Point Stage I boat ramp was completed in 2020 and added three new boat launch lanes from a full lake down to 799 feet, a new parking area, and new restroom facilities. Both facilities are adjacent to the Loafer Creek Recreation Day Use Area and Campground, rounding out a full-service recreation destination with nearby trails, campgrounds, boating, and marina.
Wildfire Impacts on Water Quality
The multi-agency “Watershed Working Group”, led by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES), continues targeted monitoring of rivers, lakes, and other surface waters in the North Complex burn area and downstream. The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Water Board), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and DWR collect and test water samples for analysis. The Water Board’s recent news release states elevated results found are not impacting drinking water treatment facilities nor the quality of drinking water.
Water testing will continue and the Watershed Working Group will report results in the weeks ahead. The Water Board will alert the public if results show water quality may be impacted.
Current Lake Operations
The elevation of Oroville’s reservoir is about 710 feet elevation and storage is about 1.33 million acre-feet, 55 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 66 percent of normal. Expect continued dry conditions this week and into the week of March 1.
The total releases to the Feather River will be reduced from 1,250 cfs to 1,050 cfs on Monday, March 1 to conserve storage in Lake Oroville. Come March 1, the Feather River flows will consist of 800 cfs down the Low Flow Channel through the City of Oroville, and 250 cfs from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet (Outlet) for a total of 1,050 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 2/25/2021