Lake Oroville Update - February 16, 2024


The California Department of Water Resources begins the first 2024 water release from the Lake Oroville flood control gates down the main spillway in Butte County, California. Main spillway releases will continue to manage lake levels in anticipation of rain and snowmelt. Photo taken January 31, 2024.

The California Department of Water Resources begins the first 2024 water release from the Lake Oroville flood control gates down the main spillway in Butte County, California. Main spillway releases will continue to manage lake levels in anticipation of rain and snowmelt. Photo taken January 31, 2024.

Main Spillway Releases Resume

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) increased water releases from Lake Oroville this week in advance of a series of storms. Water releases from Oroville Dam’s main spillway also resumed around 10 a.m. today with continuing releases through the Hyatt Powerplant. During the winter months, releases from Lake Oroville provide flood protection to downstream communities by maintaining storage capacity in the reservoir for additional rain capture. DWR coordinates releases closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other water operators and adjusts releases as needed to account for continuing runoff.


The information below reflects current reservoir level estimates. Forecasts can change quickly and may affect the estimates provided.

  • Current Oroville Reservoir Level: 850 feet elevation
  • Current Storage Capacity: 79 percent
  • Total Releases to the Feather River: 8,000 cubic feet per second (cfs)


Total releases to the Feather River amount to 8,000 cfs with 650 cfs being routed down the low-flow channel through the City of Oroville. An additional 7,350 cfs is being released from the Thermalito Afterbay River Outlet, located 5 miles downstream from Oroville. Feather River releases may increase again in the future to account for high inflows. Feather River recreation users are advised to remain alert as river flows are expected to be swift and cold and may change based on projected weather forecasts.  


Crews may also be seen working near the main spillway for several weeks. Sections of the spillway’s underdrain system are being re-inspected to capture additional video footage. In addition, crews will be performing maintenance and repairs to the spillway’s lighting system. 


The Lake Oroville reservoir is the largest storage facility in the State Water Project, providing flood protection while supporting environmental and water delivery needs to 27 million Californians. In 2023, Oroville Dam’s main spillway passed over 2,370,000 acre-feet of water, 67 percent of Lake Oroville’s capacity, with flows as high as 36,000 cfs. The main spillway continues to perform well and operate as designed. DWR continues to monitor lake levels, weather forecasts, and mountain snow levels to optimize water storage while allowing for carryover storage into next year.  


Temporary Bathroom Closure Extended

DWR is alerting Oroville Dam recreation users to extended temporary closures of the Oroville Dam Overlook and Spillway Day-Use Area restrooms for sewer system work. Due to material delays, the bathrooms are expected to remain closed through the week of Feb. 18 with closures possibly extending into the following week. DWR has placed portable toilets and hand washing stations at these locations to continue to provide restroom facilities.


Christmas Tree Habitat Construction

DWR, the California Conservation Corps (CCC), and the Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) finished constructing fish habitat structures at Lake Oroville and the Thermalito Afterbay using just over 1,000 recycled Christmas trees. The trees were again collected by Chico Boy Scout Troop 2 and delivered free of charge to the Oroville facilities by Recology, a local waste management company.


To create the habitat structures at Lake Oroville and the Thermalito Afterbay, members of the CCC team bundle the recycled holiday trees together and anchor them in various locations around the lakebed. At Lake Oroville near the Saddle Dam Recreation Area, 625 trees were assembled into 29 structures. At the Thermalito Afterbay, 426 trees were assembled into 42 structures. Anchoring the trees allows them to remain submerged when the water levels rise, providing juvenile fish safe refuge and improving fish populations. When water levels drop the structures then provide habitat for native animals.


This marks the 30th year that DWR has worked with local groups to construct fish habitat structures, making it one of the longest continuously running warmwater fish habitat improvement programs in the State of California.


Oroville Recreation

The Lake Oroville Visitor Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Staffed by knowledgeable guides, the Visitor Center features interpretive displays on Oroville Dam, area geology, wildlife and habitat, hydroelectric power, and cultural and historical artifacts. View videos in the theater about the construction of Oroville Dam, walk or hike along nearby trails, and visit the 47-foot-tall observation tower that provides unsurpassed panoramic views of surrounding areas. Free guided tours for school and community groups are available by reservation. Parking and admission to the Visitor Center are free.


Lake Oroville is one of the State Water Project’s premier recreational destinations and one of California’s best fishing spots. The lake provides both warm-water and cold-water fisheries and is a popular destination for bass tournaments. Below the Oroville Dam, the Thermalito Afterbay and the Feather River offer additional excellent fishing opportunities. The marinas at Bidwell Canyon and Lime Saddle are open daily and provide a variety of services including a convenience store, gas, and boat rentals.


Upstream migrating fish totals between Sept. 11, 2023 and Feb. 10, 2024 are:

  • Chinook salmon: 31,137
  • Steelhead: 1,548


Current Lake Operations

Lake Oroville is at 850 feet elevation and storage is approximately 2.81 million acre-feet (MAF), which is 79 percent of its total capacity and 131 percent of the historical average.


Feather River flows remain at 650 cfs through the City of Oroville with 7,350 cfs being released from the Thermalito Afterbay River Outlet (Outlet) for a total Feather River release of 8,000 cfs downstream. DWR continues to assess releases to the Feather River daily.   


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


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 2/15/2024.




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