Lake Oroville Community Update - June 16, 2023


An aerial view of Lake Oroville taken June 12 when the reservoir was at its full capacity. Water is being releases from Oroville Dam to the Feather River from the main spillway.

An aerial view of Lake Oroville taken June 12 when the reservoir was at its full capacity. Water is being releases from Oroville Dam to the Feather River from the main spillway.

Lake Oroville Water Operations

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) will cease water releases from Oroville Dam’s main spillway on Saturday, June 17 around noon. Water releases to the Feather River will continue via the Hyatt Powerplant and the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet to maintain water levels and ensure continued storage space in Lake Oroville for snowmelt runoff. Water inflows to Lake Oroville have decreased while water deliveries to the State Water Project increase this time of year. View KCRA’s news story about how DWR manages water levels at Lake Oroville.


Since Dec. 1, Lake Oroville’s storage has increased more than 240 feet and gained over 2.5 million acre-feet of water. Lake Oroville is full and at this level there is the potential for some waves to splash over the crest of the emergency spillway if we experience any particularly windy days. While unlikely, DWR will be monitoring for the potential of any wave runup that might splash over the crest of the emergency spillway. Wave splash will not affect the integrity of the emergency spillway structure or Oroville Dam.


Visitors to Oroville Dam may also notice minor amounts of water flowing from drains built into the emergency spillway. As the reservoir level has increased, water flow from the drains has increased, which is normal and expected with the emergency spillway design. The dam and emergency spillway continue to operate as intended.


Driftwood and other floating debris on Lake Oroville are expected due to continued water inflows from tributaries and a high lake level, in combination with past wildfires impacting the watershed. Since January, State officials and marina partners have been collecting, containing, and pulling pieces of wood out of the lake and away from boat launch ramps using boom lines. However, boaters, water skiers, and other water recreationists should take precautions when operating boats on Lake Oroville and should remain alert for floating debris.


The Lake Oroville reservoir is the largest storage facility in the State Water Project (SWP) and supports environmental and water delivery needs to 27 million Californians and reduces flood risks to downstream communities. DWR continues to closely monitor lake levels and will adjust releases accordingly to optimize operations for water storage and environmental protection while allowing for carryover storage into next year.  


Thermalito Forebay Vegetation Management 

DWR, CAL FIRE/Butte County Fire Department, and the California Department of Parks and Recreation (State Parks) will continue prescribed burn activities Monday, June 19 around the Thermalito Forebay. On June 3, 245 acres of grassland were burned as part of the Forebay Vegetation Management Project (VMP). An additional 25 acres of grassland will be burned on Monday near the North Forebay Aquatic Center.


The Forebay VMP was first conducted in 2021 to improve valley grassland and vernal pool habitat. Invasive annual grasses and other invasive species like the yellow star thistle degrade native grasslands and fire is a valuable tool to combat this degradation. Because invasive species have seeds and dry material called thatch that build up on the soil, it is important to burn the same area multiple years in a row. When completed during the right stage in these species' growth cycle, the control burns eradicate the current crop, reduce the dry residual thatch, and decreases the spread of seeds. The area has seen a significant decline in the volume of invasive grasses and star thistles since the project began. The project burns also allow DWR to continue post-fire studies on vernal pool habitat.


CAL FIRE/Butte County Fire Department and the City of Oroville will also be conducting prescribed burns near the Oroville Airport in preparation for the City’s Fourth of July Fireworks show. Smoke from the control burns will be highly visible in the Oroville area. 


Feather River Fish Monitoring Station

DWR began construction activities this week for a fish monitoring station project in the Feather River in Oroville. The fish monitoring station will provide information on abundance, run timing, and origin (hatchery or natural) of steelhead and Chinook salmon populations that will be used to improve management of these fish populations in the lower Feather River. 


Construction activities in June will include the installation of solar panels along the bank of the Feather River. Installation of the fish monitoring weir in the river will occur around mid-July.


The structure will be installed along the low-flow channel of the Feather River and will be located approximately 6.5 miles downstream of the Feather River Fish Hatchery, 4.5 miles downstream of the Riverbend Boat Ramp, and 1.5 miles upstream of the Thermalito Afterbay River Outlet Boat Ramp.


Oroville Recreation

DWR, State Parks, and CDFW maintain over 92 miles of trails in the Oroville area. An interactive map of recreation facilities, including open boat ramps, and their permitted uses is available on DWR’s Lake Oroville Recreation webpage. A paper trail map is available at various locations, including most entrance kiosks and the Visitor Center. The marinas at Bidwell Canyon and Lime Saddle are open daily and provide a variety of services such as a shuttle and boat rentals.


The Lake Oroville Visitor Center is open Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The Visitor Center offers numerous educational exhibits, a theater featuring videos about the building of Oroville Dam, and a 47-foot-tall observation tower providing unsurpassed panoramic views.


Current Lake Operations

Lake Oroville is at 899 feet elevation and storage is approximately 3.52 million acre-feet (MAF), which is 100 percent of its total capacity and 128 percent of the historical average.


The Feather River releases are at 3,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). Flows through the City of Oroville are 1,000 cfs with 2,000 cfs released from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet (Outlet) for a total of 3,000 cfs downstream of the Outlet. Water releases will be further reduced to 2,500 cfs on June 17. DWR continues to assess releases to the Feather River daily.


The public can track precipitation, snow, reservoir levels, and more at the California Data Exchange Center. The Lake Oroville gage station is identified as “ORO”.


All data as of midnight 6/15/2023.