DWR Responds to FEMA Reimbursement for Oroville Spillways Work


Excavators and haul trucks begin to remove a temporary road just below the new Lake Oroville main spillway. The road had been used during spillway construction. The California  Department of Water Resources ordered its removal to minimize water quality impacts with spillway use possible during the first week of April at the Butte County, California site.

A view of the recently completed Lake Oroville main spillway. Backfill operations continue to raise the area around the underdrain piping system outside the sidewalls of the spillway. DWR/2019

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today received notification that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved $205 million in federal funds to reimburse the state for spillway reconstruction costs related to the 2017 Oroville Dam spillways incident. These funds are in addition to $128.4 million FEMA previously approved for reimbursement for emergency response, debris removal, and other costs.

The latest reimbursement is based on cost estimates provided by DWR last summer. DWR will provide updated cost estimates in the coming weeks and anticipates additional reimbursements will be approved.

FEMA also notified DWR that it does not consider some spillway reconstruction to be eligible for reimbursement based on information submitted by DWR to date. DWR will work with FEMA to provide further information to support the department’s assertion that all reconstruction work should be eligible for reimbursement.

“We appreciate the hard work and commitment of FEMA staff, however are disappointed in some of their initial interpretations regarding cost eligibility,” said Joel Ledesma, DWR Deputy Director of the State Water Project. “Our reconstruction work was necessary to safely operate the main spillway and ensure functionality of the emergency spillway. DWR plans to appeal FEMA’s determination as we believe all costs should be eligible for federal reimbursement.”

FEMA’s Public Assistance program reimburses applicants at least 75 percent of eligible costs associated with a federally declared disaster. 

The reimbursement determination from FEMA is based on its eligibility categories and policies. It is not a statement on the quality of the reconstruction work or whether the work was necessary.



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Erin Mellon, Assistant Director, Public Affairs Office, Department of Water Resources

916-704-5529 |erin.mellon@water.ca.gov