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Water Released onto the Oroville Dam Spillway

With high water levels in Lake Oroville and an upcoming forecast of rain, the California Department of Water Resources announced they will use the brand-new Oroville Dam spillway on April 2.

At 11 am on Tuesday, they delivered on that promise by releasing water at 10,000 cubic feet per second. This is the first time the spillway has been used since its $1 billion renovation.

“Protecting communities from flooding is a vital part of the Department’s mission,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “Today we inaugurate the reconstructed spillway to serve that essential purpose and to prepare us for the future.”

A drone view of the Lake Oroville main spillway in Butte County, California. Photo taken Photo taken March 29, 2018. Kelly M. Grow/ California Department of Water Resources, FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Officials have been preparing for this possibility for months, with heavy precipitation causing high water levels since February. The information below reflects current reservoir level estimates. Forecasts can change quickly and may affect the estimates provided.

  • Current Oroville Reservoir level: 854 feet elevation
  • Planned Main Spillway Releases: approximately 8,300 cfs by early afternoon on April 2
  • Planned Total Releases to the Feather River: up to 20,000 cfs from Oroville facilities and other natural inflows 

DWR may increase flows to the Feather River again later this week to between 40,000 and 60,000 cfs to prepare for forecasted inflows. DWR also anticipates potential further releases to manage snowmelt and lake elevations later this spring.

Oro Dam Blvd. East will be open to pedestrian and vehicle traffic unless flows exceed 30,000 cfs. If spillway flows exceed 30,000 cfs, the road will be closed to ensure public safety. Credentialed media will be provided access past the roadblocks located at Glen Drive and Canyon Drive and can use turnouts along Oro Dam Blvd. East.

The last time the Oroville Dam spillway was used was in February of 2017. During the disastrous water incident, the spillway capsized forcing the evacuations of 180,000 residents in the Butte County area. Since then, the spillway has gone through a $1 billion reconstruction.

The newly minted spillway is a state of the art tool for the DWR, that according to them, can handle flows of up to 270,000 cfs. With heavy rain in the upcoming forecast, flows may be boosted in coming weeks.

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