The Sacramento Valley, the northern part of the Central Valley, spreads through 10 counties north of the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta (Delta). Sacramento is an important agricultural region, growing citrus, nuts and rice among many other crops.
Water flows from the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range to the region’s two major rivers — the Sacramento and American – and west into the Delta. Other rivers include the Cosumnes, which is the largest free-flowing river in the Central Valley, the lower Feather, Bear and Yuba.
The Sacramento Valley attracts more than 2 million ducks and geese each winter to its seasonal marshes along the Pacific Flyway. Species include northern pintails, snow geese, tundra swans, sandhill cranes, mallards, grebes, peregrine falcons, heron, egrets, and hawks.
The interrelated nature of water issues has given rise to a management approach that integrates flood control, environmental water, and water supply. The Yuba Water Agency manages its watershed in this kind of coordinated manner. We talked to Curt Aikens, the agency’s general manager, about the lessons they’ve learned from this “integrated management” approach.
Over the past two years, scared off by the anticipated costs of storing water there, Valley agricultural irrigation districts have steadily reduced their ownership shares of Sites. The powerful Metropolitan Water District of Southern California … is nearly as big an investor in Sites as all of the Sacramento Valley farm districts combined. Metropolitan agreed Tuesday to contribute another $4.2 million to help plan the project.
Lawyers representing the state Department of Water Resources will make their case Friday for striking portions of lawsuits over the spillway crisis filed by the city of Oroville, several farms, businesses and other plaintiffs. The state is arguing that certain “inflammatory and irrelevant” allegations should be removed from the lawsuits, including allegations about racist actions, sexual harassment and petty theft by DWR employees and conspiracy to cover up or destroy documents.
The wet weather broke a daily rainfall record in Sacramento, with 1.6 inches of rain recorded at the Sacramento Executive Airport over 24 hours. But the state’s network of flood-control dams and levees appeared to handle the deluge without major problems. The National Weather Service issued a flood warning Wednesday morning for the Sacramento Valley, and it was expected to remain in place until 6 p.m. Thursday as heavy and moderate rainfall was forecast to continue through Thursday.
Of the handful of speakers at the California Water Service hearing Tuesday, none supported the proposed rate increases for Chico, objecting to high costs, compensation to high-level executives and profit made by shareholders.
The Department of Water Resources reported last week that the surface level of most of the Sacramento Valley wasn’t dropping, which is incredibly good news. But it’s the kind of news that most people can not appreciate.
Thursday marks two years since the first hole opened up in the Oroville Dam Spillway, triggering an emergency that forced the evacuation of nearly 200,000 people. … The new emergency spillway is covered with roller-compacted concrete that looks like a giant staircase. It is one of the biggest changes during the reconstruction of the spillway project.
Several areas of the Oroville Dam and lake are undergoing extensive renovations and improvements, and the Oroville Recreation Advisory Committee met Friday to hear reports from the various member organizations overseeing them. … Aaron Wright of the California Department of Parks and Recreation said that several of the recently reopened areas near the dam have received a good amount of traffic.
The tiny town of Arbuckle in Northern California sank more than two feet in nine years. The revelation comes from a new survey that tracked subsidence — the gradual sinking of land — in the Sacramento Valley between 2008-17. Located about 50 miles north of Sacramento, Arbuckle (pop. 3,028) sank more than any other surveyed area. … Subsidence has long been an issue in California, but its recent acceleration was likely fueled by an extreme drought that plagued California between 2012-16.
The City of Chico has seen a population explosion, and it’s not just the roads that are impacted. Post-Camp Fire sewage production numbers are at an all-time high. Before the fire, Chico’s wastewater treatment facility processed about 6 million gallons of waste on average per day. Since then that amount has gone up to 7 million. Biosolid production has gone up 70%, while overall waste and sewage flows are up 17%.
New data released measure changes in land subsidence in the Sacramento Valley over the past nine years, finding the greatest land surface declines in Arbuckle. According to the Sacramento Valley GPS Subsidence Netwook Report and accompanying fact sheet … land in the Arbuckle area has sunk 2.14 feet compared with baseline measurements recorded in the same location in 2008, according to a press release from the Department of Water Resources.
Early last year, construction started on a $90 million project to build seven miles of setback levees and floodplains to protect Hamilton City from floods on the Sacramento River. … The new barriers are much farther from the riverbanks—as far as a mile away in places. In some respects, the concept is absurdly simple: During heavy rains or spring snowmelt, rivers need room to expand; moving levees back from riverbanks provides it. Setback levees not only reduce the need for newer and larger dams and levees, but also restore the natural habitat.
More water storage projects will not solve the basic fact that the state’s finite amount of water is incapable of meeting all of the demands. This deficit has been created primarily by the transformation of a semi-arid area— the Central Valley — by an infusion of water from northern California.
State water quality officials cautioned the public not to drink or cook with untreated surface water from streams throughout the Camp Fire burn area after bacteria and other contaminants were detected in water samples. … Laboratory analyses of surface water samples found concentrations of bacteria (E.Coli), aluminum, antimony and some polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that exceeded water quality standards for drinking water.
At least one state agency has indicated it will not issue necessary permits to allow federal officials and a Fresno-based water district to begin construction to raise the height of Shasta Dam. In addition to facing opposition from the state, the project could also face fresh hurdles from Congress, which this year came under control of Democrats. In a letter to the Fresno-based Westlands Water District, the State Water Resources Control Board says raising the height of Shasta Dam would violate state law.
The McCormack-Williamson Tract restoration project, a 1,500 acre site, lowers the levees on the north side of the island to allow the river to overtop into the site. On the south side, DWR will alleviate the surge flows that pose a risk to neighbors by opening small holes in the levee. 2018 saw the completion of construction of a levee to protect existing infrastructure on the site, as well as progress on habitat restoration plans. For the next phase, DWR will strengthen the interior levees and take steps toward opening the site up to tidal flows.
Another Pacific storm was set to hit California on Wednesday, bringing a threat of mudslides to the site of the deadliest wildfire in state history and a rare blizzard warning in the Sierra Nevada. An evacuation warning was in place into Thursday morning for Pulga, a canyon community in Northern California. Its neighbor, the town of Paradise, was virtually incinerated two months ago by the Camp Fire that killed 86 people and destroyed nearly 15,000 homes.
The work to provide Yuba-Sutter with the highest level of flood protection possible isn’t yet complete, but the levees are much better today, having had the oversight expertise of the head of the Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency. After more than seven years with the agency, SBFCA Executive Director Mike Inamine announced he would be leaving this week for a job with the California Department of Water Resources.
Last week, the relicensing effort reached a milestone when FERC issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement. The environmental document essentially looks at what changes a licensee has proposed for a specific project, the impacts of those changes and provides conditions they must meet if awarded a new license.
The long road to recovery in the town of Paradise starts with removing millions of tons of charred rubble left in the Camp Fire’s wake. But the question remains: Where will it all go? Disaster officials are scrambling to secure a place to sort and process the remnants of nearly 19,000 structures destroyed in the wildfire that began on Nov. 8 and killed 86 people. The mammoth undertaking has been slowed by staunch opposition in nearby communities eyed as potential sites for a temporary scrapyard, which would receive 250 to 400 truckloads of concrete and metal each day.
Butte County may soon have a better idea of what lies beneath its surface. Starting in late November, a helicopter took off for several days from the Orland airport to fly a pattern over an area between Chico and Orland, and southeast into Butte Valley. Dangling beneath the helicopter was a hoop loaded with devices that created a weak magnetic field and instruments that measured how that interacted with layers beneath the soil.
Everyone who diverts water is required to report to the State Water Board the amount they used. But Louis and Darcy Chacon reported an amount that just didn’t make sense. The Chacons reported they used more than 1 trillion acre-feet of water annually from 2009 to 2013, more than is available on the entire planet.
At the end of the last century, the Sierra Nevada captured an average of 8.76 million acre-feet of water critical to the nation’s largest food-producing region. By mid-century, a new study projects, the average will fall to 4 million acre-feet; and by century’s end, 1.81 million acre-feet.
The earthquakes hit just days after last year’s near-catastrophe at Oroville Dam, when the spillway cracked amid heavy rains and 188,000 people fled in fear of flooding. The timing of the two small tremors about 75 miles north of Sacramento was curious, and frightening.
Not long after the Gold Rush of 1849, California became a state and made its capital in Sacramento. It seemed a logical choice. The city was served by the two of the state’s biggest rivers, the Sacramento and American, at a time when a lot of goods and people moved via river traffic. It was somewhat centrally located. But, there was the occasional flood. Every spring, the snowcap in the Sierras melts, leaving a significant amount of water in the Central Valley, where Sacramento sits. The city engineered a levee system to control the seasonal flooding.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin advertising for bids on a Feather River West Levee construction project estimated at $77 million. According to a staff report published earlier this year by the Central Valley Flood Protection Board, the project would make improvements to approximately 4.9 miles of levee.
Trump administration officials were in California on Tuesday to announce a $450 million loan for the Sites Reservoir project in Colusa County. The money will be used to build a tunnel to carry water from the Glenn-Colusa Canal to an existing reservoir, giving farmers on the west side of the Sacramento Valley more access to irrigation water.
Despite being evacuated nearly two weeks ago from their homes in the wake of spreading wildfires, residents of the town of Butte Creek Canyon — a few miles east of Chico — plan to join forces Wednesday to save the local salmon population. … Now, the fish face a new danger, as rains threaten to wash toxic debris from the nearby wildfires into the creek.
The plumes of smoke from the fire, which has burned 141,000 acres in Northern California, get the most attention, but the Camp Fire is leaving other environmental hazards in its wake: toxic ash from burning homes, polluted water, and burning Superfund sites. … “Anything that’s affecting the air quality will eventually affect water quality,” Los Angeles Waterkeeper Executive Director Bruce Reznik told Bloomberg Environment.
Employees of the state Department of Water Resources, with the help of firefighting crews, were cutting brush and watering down landscapes around Lake Oroville to prevent the 117,000-acre blaze from damaging the reservoir’s infrastructure, including the 770-foot-tall Oroville Dam.
A trial date has been set to hear several lawsuits against the state Department of Water Resources over the Oroville Dam crisis. The court scheduled the trial for June 1, 2020 during the second case management conference Friday in the Sacramento County Superior Court.
Marysville is one step closer to being the most protected city in the Central Valley from flooding, experts say, with the recent completion of a stretch of slurry wall in part of the ring levee project. Last week, crews completed a portion of the Marysville Ring Levee project – Phase 2A North – located between the 10th Street and Fifth Street bridges.
Federal regulators are raising new concerns about the troubled Oroville Dam, telling California officials their recently rebuilt flood-control spillways likely couldn’t handle a mega-flood. Although the chances of such a disastrous storm are considered extremely unlikely — the magnitude of flooding in the federal warning is far greater than anything ever experienced — national dam safety experts say the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s concerns could have costly repercussions for California.
State officials said Wednesday the damaged Oroville Dam flood-control spillway is ready for the rainy season, and will be able to fully blast water down its half-mile long concrete chute for the first time in nearly two years if lake levels rise. Work on the adjacent emergency spillway is ongoing.
When it comes to flood fighting, the men and women who’ve worked for Levee District 1 have seen it all – from tragedy to triumph. Those still around have plenty of stories to tell. The public will have an opportunity to hear some of those stories during the district’s 150th anniversary celebration on Oct. 26. The district is responsible for operations and maintenance of 16.15 miles of levee spanning from Pease Road to Marcuse Road in Sutter County.
A request from the state Department of Water Resources to temporarily make more than 50 miles of trails in Oroville open to multiple user groups has been denied by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. DWR proposed this with backing from the Oroville Recreation Advisory Committee, or ORAC, as a compensation for trail closures as a result of the 2017 Oroville Dam spillway emergency.
Explore the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as we learn about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour participants will get an on-site update of Oroville Dam spillway repairs.
The state Department of Water Resources still expects to meet its quickly approaching Nov. 1 deadline to have all concrete placed on the Oroville Dam’s main spillway. Crews began by placing permanent concrete slabs at the bottom of the spillway of the nation’s tallest dam, making their way to the top. Now, the upper chute is about three-quarters of the way complete, DWR reported in a moderated media call on Wednesday.
Sites Reservoir, the largest new water storage proposal in California, recently won a commitment of $816 million in state funds to help with construction. It promises to deliver enough water every year, on average, to serve 1 million homes. But regulatory realities looming in the background may mean the project has substantially less water at its disposal.
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law Sen. Jim Nielsen’s bill to form a citizens advisory commission for the Oroville Dam. Senate Bill 955 creates a 19-member commission to provide a forum for residents and state officials to discuss reports, maintenance and other ongoing issues related to the dam.
The latest water conservation figures released by the state show Butte County saving at about double the statewide rate. The Water Resources Control Board released the number for July last week, and statewide water savings were 13.6 percent lower than in July 2013, the benchmark pre-drought year.
Dave Vogel already knew that levees and dams had devastated the coastal salmon population in California’s longest river. The surprise for the fisheries scientist arrived when he saw the video footage of young salmon clustered beneath bridges in the watery depths.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that a farming company has agreed to pay $5.3 million in civil penalties and costs to perform work to repair disturbed streams and wetlands on property near the Sacramento River. … “Like the Duarte settlement last year, today’s agreement serves the public interest in enforcement of the Clean Water Act and deterrence of future violations,” said Jeffrey H. Wood, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division.
An hour’s drive north of Sacramento sits a picture-perfect valley hugging the eastern foothills of Northern California’s Coast Range, with golden hills framing grasslands mostly used for cattle grazing.
Back in the late 1800s, pioneer John Sites built his ranch there and a small township, now gone, bore his name. Today, the community of a handful of families and ranchers still maintains a proud heritage.
Fixing the Oroville Dam spillway wrecked by storms in 2017 will cost $1.1 billion — a $455-million hike from initial estimates — the state Department of Water Resources announced Wednesday. The swelling cost can be blamed on design changes that have been made over the last 16 months and damage to the facility near Oroville, Calif., that was far more extensive than initially presumed, the department said.
Butte County has filed another lawsuit against the state Department of Water Resources, this time for damages from the Oroville Dam crisis that continue to increase. The county is seeking compensation for damage to its roads, which heavy equipment is still utilizing for construction efforts, and also for costs associated with responding to the spillway emergency in February 2017.
A 30-foot-wide section of temporary wall on the upper chute of the Oroville Dam spillway fell over late last week, the state Department of Water Resources confirmed on Monday. The collapse did not impact construction deadlines and resulted in no injuries, according to the department.
Farmers in the Central Valley are broiling about California’s plan to increase flows in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems to help struggling salmon runs avoid extinction. But north of Sacramento, River Garden Farms is taking part in some extraordinary efforts to provide the embattled fish with refuge from predators and enough food to eat. And while there is no direct benefit to one farm’s voluntary actions, the belief is what’s good for the fish is good for the farmers.
Farmers in the Central Valley are broiling about California’s plan to increase flows in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems to help struggling salmon runs avoid extinction. But in one corner of the fertile breadbasket, River Garden Farms is taking part in some extraordinary efforts to provide the embattled fish with refuge from predators and enough food to eat.
And while there is no direct benefit to one farm’s voluntary actions, the belief is what’s good for the fish is good for the farmers.
The local oversight committee spearheaded by Assemblyman James Gallagher and Sen. Jim Nielsen had some suggestions this week for the state Department of Water Resources on its assessment of the Oroville Dam. This comes about a month after the committee met for the first time on July 18.
Eighteen months after the dramatic failure of the spillways at Oroville Dam in Northern California, a disaster that led to the evacuation of 188,000 people, construction is on schedule to complete the concrete work in the main spillway by Nov. 1. … On Monday, Lake Oroville was 51 percent full, or 73 percent of its historic average for this date.
Crews have begun to place the final layer of concrete this week on the upper portion of the Oroville Dam spillway chute. This marks a “crucial milestone,” said Tony Meyers, project manager for the recovery project for the state Department of Water Resources, in a moderated media call on Wednesday.
The Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers are the two major Central Valley waterways that feed the Delta, the hub of California’s water supply network. Our last water tours of 2018 will look in-depth at how these rivers are managed and used for agriculture, cities and the environment. You’ll see infrastructure, learn about efforts to restore salmon runs and talk to people with expertise on these rivers.
The independent review board hired by the state Department of Water Resources to put outside eyes on an assessment which will play a large role in the future operations of the Oroville Dam has released its first report. Suggestions for infrastructure changes like the construction of a second gated spillway are expected to be considered through what DWR is calling a comprehensive needs assessment.
The Sites Reservoir project will move forward, according to officials, despite being awarded in a recent California Water Commission announcement about half what project backers sought. They will spend the next few months securing the necessary financing to begin the next phase.
Fran Obrigewitsch pulled up the most recent photo on her iPhone of the Oroville Dam spillway, taken just two days before it started to collapse last year. Her first chance to catch another glimpse was Monday, as the state Department of Water Resources reopened the stretch of Oro Dam Boulevard East that offers views of the spillway to the general public for the first time since the crisis began.
Get an up-close look at some of California’s key water reservoirs and learn about farming operations, habitat restoration, flood management and wetlands in the Sacramento Valley on our Northern California Water Tour Oct. 10-12.
Each year, participants on the Northern California Water Tour enjoy three days exploring the Sacramento Valley during the temperate fall. Join us as we travel through a scenic landscape along the Sacramento and Feather rivers to learn about issues associated with storing and delivering the state’s water supply.
A historic first meeting between state Department of Water Resources officials and local leaders as a committee solidified that the community will have a say in the future of Oroville Dam operations. … The committee is being led by co-chairs Assemblyman James Gallagher, Sen. Jim Nielsen and DWR’s John Yarbrough.
Enhancements to several Lake Oroville recreation areas are in the works this summer as the state Department of Water Resources makes good on its promise to improve lake access ahead of the Oroville Dam relicensing. Some means of getting more people out on the water include adding boat launch lanes and parking spots and providing free shuttle services.
Phase two of construction on the Oroville Dam’s main and emergency spillways is speeding along, as the Oroville Mercury-Register got to see up close in a tour on Wednesday guided by state Department of Water Resources officials. With half of the main spillway currently a work in progress, the department’s goal is to have the structure ready to use, if needed, by Nov. 1 — just under four months away.
A local oversight committee will get to have a say as long-term changes are considered for the Oroville Dam, after Sen. Jim Nielsen and Assemblyman James Gallagher recently came to an agreement with the state Department of Water Resources.
More than a decade in the making, an ambitious plan to deal with the vexing problem of salt and nitrates in the soils that seep into key groundwater basins of the Central Valley is moving toward implementation. But its authors are not who you might expect.
An unusual collaboration of agricultural interests, cities, water agencies and environmental justice advocates collaborated for years to find common ground to address a set of problems that have rendered family wells undrinkable and some soil virtually unusable for farming.
Concrete pouring is due to start Monday on the second half of the Oroville Dam emergency spillway “splash pad.” That’s the only milestone reported Wednesday during a media call on progress to repair the emergency spillway and main spillway, which sustained serious damage in February 2017.
Among California rivers, the Yuba is one of the most dramatic. Draining the Sierra Nevada just north of Lake Tahoe, it is steep and flashy – one of the most flood-prone rivers in the state. Yuba River floods have killed people – notably in 1955, 1986 and 1997 – and climate change is making such floods more likely.
Heading to Lake Oroville for the holiday weekend? It can be tricky to keep track of what areas are open to the public, with construction ongoing at the Oroville Dam spillways. To help with your plans, here is some information on the accessible trails, boat launches and other recreational areas.
New water storage is the holy grail primarily for agricultural interests in California, and in 2014 the door to achieving long-held ambitions opened with the passage of Proposition 1, which included $2.7 billion for the public benefits portion of new reservoirs and groundwater storage projects. The statute stipulated that the money is specifically for the benefits that a new storage project would offer to the ecosystem, water quality, flood control, emergency response and recreation.
The Diversion Pool below Oroville Dam and the trails on both sides of it will be partially open Friday through the Fourth of July, the Department of Water Resources announced Wednesday. The report came during a conference call to update media on the status of work to repair the spillways, which were heavily damaged in February 2017.
The state Department of Water Resources announced plans on Friday to draw Lake Oroville down to 808 feet elevation by early next week. This is to provide a second point of access to the upper chute of the Oroville Dam spillway, through the radial gates, for construction.
A steady stream of trucks has started carrying dirt to what will be a new levee to protect Hamilton City. The trucks started rolling Monday, carrying dirt from a pile at the north end of Canal Road that is left from the excavation of the Glenn-Colusa Canal.
The Army Corps of Engineers announced Monday that the additional money would be available to the Hamilton City Flood Damage Reduction and Ecosystem Restoration Project in the current fiscal year. … It is the first in the nation being constructed under the Corps’ guidelines to develop projects that include both flood risk reduction and ecosystem restoration.
The state Department of Water Resources has beefed up its response to the independent forensic report on what caused the Oroville Dam spillway failure last year. The report, released on Jan. 5, described how insufficient maintenance and repairs and faulty original design allowed water to seep through the spillway’s cracks and joints. It also blamed “long-term systemic failure” on the part of DWR, regulators and the dam safety industry at large.
A lawsuit filed by Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey against the state Department of Water Resources over environmental damages resulting from the Oroville Dam spillway crisis is moving forward in court. Butte County Superior Court Judge Stephen Benson overruled DWR’s demurrer, which is essentially a plea to have a case dismissed, through a written ruling filed on May 31.
An excavator slid down the Oroville Dam spillway slope on Sunday morning, resulting in minor injuries to its operator, the state Department of Water Resources confirmed on Wednesday. Erin Mellon, assistant director of public affairs for DWR, said that the operator immediately got back to work after the accident, which is currently under investigation by the department and Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., the lead contractor for the construction project.
The Oroville Strong! advocacy group is going by a new name and hoping to increase its reach to those in the greater area who have been affected by the spillway crisis. The new entity called the Feather River Recovery Alliance will be headed by some of the same leaders; however, it will be disassociated from the Oroville Chamber of Commerce.
The opening of the Diversion Pool last weekend to kayakers and hikers appears to have been a big success according to all involved, and it may happen again. “We’ve already been discussing it with our partners and probably will,” State Parks District Superintendent Aaron Wright said Thursday, “but I can’t commit to that now.”
Two bills proposed by Assemblyman James Gallagher, one of which would have taken the State Water Project from the state Department of Water Resources and another which would have provided funding for school resource officers, failed on Friday to pass through the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
The second and final phase of reconstruction continues at the Oroville Dam spillways. … A flight over the location last week during a break in Butte County Sheriff’s Office helicopter training exercise, showed that much original concrete at the top of the chute has been removed, along with the walls.
The California Water Commission – the entity responsible for awarding $2.7 billion in Proposition 1 funds to water storage projects in a few months – didn’t quite see eye-to-eye with officials pushing for Sites Reservoir, primarily on the benefits to salmon the project would provide.
In order to get boaters and swimmers back to Lake Oroville after the Oroville Dam spillway was damaged in 2017, state agencies have announced they will waive fees for the recreational area on select days over the summer.
While work to repair the main Oroville Dam spillway will largely be done by Nov. 1, in response to a question, the Department of Water Resources clarified that work on the emergency spillway will continue into 2019.
Construction work began just after midnight Tuesday morning on phase 2 of the repairs to the Oroville Dam main spillway. The Department of Water Resources had been granted permission by federal and state regulators to start work May 8, and contractor Kiewit Infrastructure West didn’t waste any time.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently told north state congressmen Doug LaMalfa and John Garamendi that the agency is still reviewing whether the state Department of Water Resources is eligible for further reimbursement to fix the Oroville Dam spillway.
One billion dollars isn’t enough, Sites Reservoir supporters say. Despite being eligible for $1 billion in Proposition 1 funds from the state, a top official with the group spearheading Sites Reservoir said the state is failing to see the big picture in terms of the benefits the project would provide California, namely its endangered salmon.
The California Water Commission announced Friday that the Sites Reservoir project was eligible for $1 billion in Proposition 1 funds, up from $933 million the commission had said it might receive last month. … The commission also signaled more support for a small groundwater storage proposed by the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District.
The NOR-CAL Guides and Sportsmen’s Association and other fishing groups had spent more than a year pressuring state dam and fish-hatchery managers to raise extra fish to make up for the ones the fishing groups say were lost after the Oroville Dam spillway collapsed in February 2017.
The U.S. Geological Survey over the last year has recorded dozens of weak and shallow earthquakes near Oroville Dam and its spillways. And nearly all the tremors — including a magnitude-0.8 quake recorded Wednesday — share the same designation: “Chemical explosion.”
While some construction continues at Oroville Dam, the bulk of work under phase two is expected to begin May 8, state Department of Water Resources officials said Wednesday in a monthly media update call. This comes as DWR submitted an updated 2017-2018 Lake Oroville operations plan on Tuesday to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the California Division of Safety of Dams for approval.
After a spring storm system dumped 5 to 7 inches of rain into the Feather River basin over the weekend, state officials said Sunday they likely won’t have to use the partly rebuilt flood control spillway at Oroville Dam after all.
Oroville Dam operators said Tuesday they may have to release water over a partially rebuilt spillway for the first time since repairs began on the badly damaged structure last summer. Department of Water Resources officials said anticipated storms could trigger releases this week or next.
With a pounding storm headed for California, state water officials said Tuesday that Oroville Dam’s crumbled spillway could get its first test since being rebuilt in the wake of last year’s near-catastrophe.
The flows have been shut off through the Hyatt Powerhouse at the base of Oroville Dam, and the lake is beginning to rise. And that’s all by design, according to the state Department of Water Resources.
Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. said on Wednesday that construction of the underground wall below the Oroville Dam emergency spillway completed in early March. The 1,450 feet long wall, drilled 35-65 feet into bedrock, is one preventative measure against the type of erosion that occurred there last year, should the emergency spillway ever be used again.
A bill introduced by Sen. Jim Nielsen that would create a citizens advisory commission for the Oroville Dam was amended in the Senate last week. This comes as the Oroville Dam Coalition has been lobbying over the past year for more community involvement, including through a citizens oversight committee, as a reaction to the spillway crisis in February 2017.
State Parks workers were pulling cable up a launch ramp at Bidwell Marina Thursday because the water level in Lake Oroville is on the rise. March’s storms have brought the lake level up almost 13 feet since the start of the month, according to the Department of Water Resources website.
The state Department of Water Resources submitted its plan to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Tuesday to address findings in the independent forensic report. The extensive forensic report, released on Jan. 5, blamed “long-term systematic failure,” including faulty design and insufficient maintenance, for the Oroville Dam crisis in February 2017.
Sites Project Authority officials recently appealed the California Water Commission’s initial public benefit score in hopes of improving their pitch for a chunk of the $2.7 billion in available Proposition 1 funding for state water storage projects.
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Monday that seeks to beef up dam inspections following a near disaster that caused the evacuation of almost 200,000 people living downstream from the tallest one in the United States. The measure implements several recommendations from experts who reviewed the crisis at Oroville Dam last year.
Despite the heat that often accompanies debates over setting aside water for the environment, there are instances where California stakeholders have forged agreements to provide guaranteed water for fish. Here are two examples cited by the Public Policy Institute of California in its report arguing for an environmental water right.
Though the final phase of repair work on the main spillway at Lake Oroville is now on the back burner until spring, Department of Water Resources officials said crews are making significant progress on repairing the emergency spillway.
Until February 2017, the calls that came to Butte 2-1-1 ranged from quelling stress, and finding support organizations, to locating low-cost diapers. But for a few weeks after the Oroville Dam spillway disaster, the calls were desperate, seeking evacuation routes, hunting for surviving relatives, and wondering when residents could return home.
Modifications were made to construction plans for an upcoming phase of the Marysville Ring Levee project. … The Marysville Levee Commission, the Central Valley Flood Protection Board and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are proposing changes to their original plans for an area located along the existing levee to the southwest of Marysville, between the Fifth Street Bridge and E Street Bridge.
With the threat of another drought looming, federal officials announced water allocations Tuesday that gave the city of Redding a full complement of water, but other water agencies, such as the Bella Vista Water District, were left with uncertainty.
Assemblyman James Gallagher rounded up a group of bipartisan legislators to visit Oroville on Thursday, where they met with community members and toured the now-infamous dam. Representatives of districts ranging from southern to northern California came to better understand the place where the evacuation of about 188,000 people occurred just over a year ago.
Locals who lost business or saw their property value decrease because of the Oroville Dam crisis are anxious to be reimbursed through a class action lawsuit filed last week. … There is a variety of plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit, including a child care facility, a water ski shop, a ranch and a ministry.
One year after the worst structural failures at a major U.S. dam in a generation, federal regulators who oversee California’s half-century-old, towering Oroville Dam say they are looking hard at how they overlooked its built-in weaknesses for decades.
Butte County District Attorney Michael Ramsey has filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Water Resources seeking $34 billion to $51 billion in civil penalties for environmental damage following the failure of the Oroville Dam spillways last February.
Butte County prosecutors are seeking up to $51 billion in fines and penalties against California’s water agency for damage caused to local river-based wildlife after the Oroville dam spillway failure last year, officials said.
Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey announced Wednesday that his office filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Water Resources for environmental damages to the Feather River as a result of the Oroville Dam crisis.
Oroville Dam’s battered flood-control spillways have been largely rebuilt, but the cost of last February’s near-disaster keeps rising. On Friday, state officials put the total price tag at $870 million.
The view from Don Murphy’s expansive backyard is breathtaking. The Sacramento River rolls gently past as birds float in the mid-winter fog. It is nearly silent, except for the infrequent car driving along a delta road across the river. … Now a fight is heating up over who should have access to that serenity.
Local leaders are pressing the state Department of Water Resources for details on how residents will be involved in the community needs assessment. Department officials have said that constructing additional infrastructure at Oroville Dam, including a second gated spillway and a fully lined emergency spillway, would be considered as part of the assessment.
The state Department of Water Resources could have lost control of the spillway radial gates for days during the Oroville Dam crisis if crucial power lines had gone down, according to department officials. DWR leaders Cindy Messer and Joel Ledesma stated this Jan. 10 during a legislative oversight hearing on the dam at the State Capitol.
The project is called the Fish Food on Floodplain Farm Fields Project. It’s part of a greater effort to restore threatened fish species — the Sacramento Valley Salmon Recovery Program. The project comes at a key time: A recent UC Davis study suggests that winter run chinook salmon could go extinct if efforts to recover the species aren’t taken up.
The Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are currently testing Folsom Dam’s auxiliary spillway, part of the official commissioning of the newly constructed structure. The Corps, in cooperation with Reclamation, are testing all of the major systems in the structure, ensuring that the facility operates as intended in the design. The tests, underway this week and next, include operating and releasing water from all six new auxiliary spillway radial gates.
An investigation into last winter’s near catastrophe at Oroville Dam uncovered a litany of problems with how the dam was built and maintained, but one of them stands out: Even as workers built the dam, they were raising alarms about the eroded, crumbling rock on which they were directed to lay concrete for the 3,000-foot-long main flood control spillway.
Signaling what could be a wave of lawsuits arising from last year’s spillway crisis, the city of Oroville is planning to file a complaint Wednesday against the state Department of Water Resources for damages it says it suffered during and after the emergency. About 188,000 people were evacuated from communities along the Feather River after the failure of Oroville Dam’s main spillway last Feb. 7.
California water officials have always insisted public safety was their only concern as they struggled with the crisis unfolding last February at Oroville Dam. The forensic team investigating what happened at Lake Oroville, however, has pinpointed another factor guiding the decisions made by the Department of Water Resources: the state’s desire to continue shipping water to faraway farms and cities that rely on deliveries from the reservoir.
The spillway failures at Oroville Dam that prompted tens of thousands to flee for their lives last winter were the result of years of mistakes, lax inspections and lazy repairs by the state’s water agency, a team of independent dam experts reported Friday. Their conclusions: State water managers should not have built the dam’s primary spillway on faulty bedrock.
Less than nine months after two massive holes formed in Lake Oroville’s main spillway, construction crews wrapped up their first phase of rebuilding it. Some local residents have expressed concerns that the quick turnover could result in faults or design flaws, but an official with the Department of Water Resources said if any crew can accomplish the feat, it would be Kiewit Infrastructure West Co.
The independent team of experts investigating the dramatic failure of the spillways last February at Oroville Dam that led to the evacuation of 188,000 people has concluded that California water officials were “overconfident and complacent” and gave “inadequate priority for dam safety,” according to a final report released Friday.
The forensic team investigating the February emergency at Oroville Dam blasted the California Department of Water Resources on Friday, saying the dam’s owner and operator did a poor job of designing, building and maintaining the structure and neglected safety while focusing on the “water delivery needs” of its customers to the south.
State Department of Water Resources officials recently met with Oroville Dam Coalition members to consider their ideas for the Oroville Wildlife Area project, but announced later the same day that the department had different plans.
Elected officials and other groups representing those living below the troubled Oroville Dam have asked the Trump administration to hold off on renewing its 50-year license, saying the federal government should at least know why the spillway broke in half last winter before signing off.
There were many takeaways from last February’s Lake Oroville spillway incident, but one very alarming one: a large number of Yuba-Sutter residents who evacuated said they experienced issues with leaving the area, mainly due to traffic congestion. And a startling number of residents reported that they stayed home instead of fleeing, risking their lives in the event the emergency spillway did collapse.
The near-disaster at Oroville Dam last February brought damage claims flooding into the state by the hundreds – shops and restaurants that lost business, farms that got overwhelmed by surges in water, cities and counties buried in evacuation expenses. Most claims argue that the state is responsible for the emergency because it ignored warning signs about the condition of the dam’s spillway.
The previously secret state Department of Water Resources memorandum explaining the hairline cracks in the Oroville Dam spillway is now public. The document provides more details on how Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., the contractor for spillway reconstruction, tried to reduce shrinkage, which leads to cracking in concrete.
Yuba-Sutter residents voiced concerns to the Department of Water Resources over a variety of issues Thursday night, including the hairline cracks that have appeared on the reconstructed spillway, a need for more transparency moving forward, and the significant amount of sediment buildup in the Feather River brought about by the Lake Oroville incident last February and plans – or lack thereof – to clear it out.
Northern California residents living in the shadow of the nation’s tallest dam vented decades of frustration with state water managers Wednesday, telling officials they have no credibility when they say hairline cracks in a newly rebuilt spillway are nothing to worry about.
It might be another year or so until reconstruction of the main spillway at Lake Oroville is officially complete, but Department of Water Resources officials say the structure is ready for whatever this winter can throw at it, even if there are a few cracks here and there.
A team of researchers and Marysville rice farmers initiated a study this week in Yuba County to see if introducing fish to a flooded rice field could both reduce methane emissions and allow for a new reliable protein source.
The Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency got to work on emergency levee repairs following last winter’s high waters and the Oroville Dam evacuation. Seepage, boils, sink holes and water erosion were signs of severe distress. The $28.5 million project, mostly funded by the state, is geared up to complete by Christmas.
Biologists assumed baby winter-run Chinook salmon hung out in the Sacramento River where they hatched until they grew large enough to make the trip downstream to the Pacific Ocean. A recently released scientific study challenges that assumption – and may have implications in how fisheries agencies manage Sacramento Valley waterways to protect the critically endangered fish.
Phase two of construction at Oroville Dam — with work on both spillways — might prove more challenging than the first feat, the contractor’s project director said in a media call Thursday. … DWR [California Department of Water Resources] will hold two community meetings next week.
Oroville’s mayor said Thursday she knew about cracks in the replacement spillway at the troubled dam nearby and is not concerned, but heaped criticism on state water officials for failing to communicate with her town. Linda Dahlmeier said the Department of Water Resources should have proactively communicated that cracks were expected but has instead created a “firestorm” in a community that was rattled by sudden evacuation orders last February.
Politicians and river guides are calling upon the state Department of Water Resources to mitigate sediment build up in the Feather River following the Oroville Dam crisis. … The state Department of Water Resources is currently assessing the impacts of sediment on the river system, with the study expected to be complete in December, said Jon Ericson, acting division chief for the division of flood management.
It appears this is an average year for the number of fall-fun Chinook Salmon returning to spawn in the American River. The numbers were expected to be much lower because of high water temperatures and predators when the fish were juveniles heading to the ocean during the drought.
Hairline cracks have been detected in sections of the newly reconstructed flood-control spillway at Oroville Dam. State and federal officials said they’re confident the cracks don’t pose a safety problem and don’t need to be repaired.
Several small cracks have been discovered on the Oroville Dam’s newly rebuilt concrete spillway, prompting federal regulators to express concern about the $500 million construction project under way at the troubled facility. But state water officials said Tuesday that the series of millimeter-wide cracks on the surface of the main spillway pose no structural problems for the nation’s tallest dam.
Federal regulators have asked the officials who operate Oroville Dam — and who are in charge of the $500 million-plus effort to rebuild and reinforce the facility’s compromised spillways — to explain small cracks that have appeared in recently rebuilt sections of the dam’s massive concrete flood-control chute.
This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour participants got an on-site update of repair efforts on the Oroville Dam spillway.
Water tests at school drinking fountains across Northern California found dangerous levels of lead and other metals, prompting school officials to shut down the fountains. However, thousands of schools across California have not participated in a state-funded program to test their drinking water, according to an investigation by KCRA 3.
Sen. Jim Nielsen, Assemblyman James Gallagher, and members of the Oroville Dam Coalition are seeking federal assistance on issues relating to the dam they say need to be resolved. They met with commissioners of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and representatives for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
State Sen. Jim Nielsen, Assemblyman James Gallagher and Oroville Dam Coalition members are heading to Washington, D.C., this week to address what they say are outstanding issues following the spillway crisis.
Reps. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, and Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, Monday introduced to a bill that would require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to conduct an additional environmental review of the Oroville Dam. The congressmen would like to see a review done before the commission approves the relicensing of the dam under state Department of Water Resources’ management.
California is launching an overall safety review of the nation’s tallest dam to pinpoint any needed upgrades in the half-century-old structure, water officials said Wednesday, launching the kind of overarching review called for by an independent national panel of experts in September following the collapse of two spillways at Oroville Dam.
Crews are laying the last layer of concrete on the Oroville Dam spillway with one day until the state Department of Water Resources’ deadline to have the structure ready to pass flows of 100,000 cubic-feet per second, or cfs.
Even living here on the West Coast, Marion Townsend decided to act as floods ravaged Texas and hurricanes pounded the Caribbean in recent weeks. Her Sacramento neighborhood slopes downward from a levee that separates it from the American River, in an area that officials concede never should have been settled but is home to 100,000 residents.
Considering the events of this past winter and the problems they posed to Yuba-Sutter levees, officials are confident the improvements made over the past several months will withstand the upcoming flood season.
California needs to spend another $100 million a year to keep the state’s levee system sound, according to state flood control experts. At a press conference marking flood preparedness week Monday at a levee repair site near Sacramento, Bill Edgar, president of the Central Valley Flood Protection Board said the levees will need a $17 billion to $21 billion investment over the next 30 years to protect the seven million Californians at flood risk.
Over the past several weeks crews have been out on Whiskeytown Lake repairing the temperature curtains in the water near the Visitors Center. … The curtains are an important part of the bureau’s Central Valley Project, which includes Trinity and Lewiston dams and Shasta and Keswick dams.
The state Department of Water Resources plans to clear mounds of rock from the Gold Rush days at the Oroville Wildlife Area and put them to use in the rebuilding of the spillways at Oroville Dam. DWR received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, according to a filing made last week.
Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration think two main factors caused low numbers of spring-run chinook salmon to return this year: drought and abnormally warm temperatures.
Survey results largely showed that respondents weren’t happy with how things went down this past February at the Lake Oroville spillways and the events that followed. Most respondents expressed their concerns were with the California Department of Water Resources.
The cost of repairing the crippling damage to Oroville Dam’s spillways caused by last winter’s fierce storms has almost doubled, state water officials said Thursday. … Jeff Petersen, project manager for Kiewit, said that once construction workers got on the site they discovered they had to dig much deeper to get down to bedrock than they had expected.
In one of the fastest-paced civic construction jobs in recent U.S. history, hundreds of carpenters, operating engineers and iron workers are rushing to complete repairs to the damaged Oroville Dam spillway. The crews are trying to beat a Nov. 1 deadline and the Northern California rainy season, which once again will begin to fill the massive reservoir behind the nation’s highest dam.
A plan has been prepared for flood control operations this rainy season at Oroville Dam, which call for keeping the lake lower and aggressively releasing water if the water level rises above trigger points. Up to now, the dam has been operated under rules drafted by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1970, which set a maximum lake surface elevation target of 848.5 feet above sea level for November through April, and 870.1 feet in May.
This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as we learned about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply. All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. This year, special attention was paid to the flood event at Oroville Dam and the efforts to repair the dam spillway before the next rainy season.
The state Department of Water Resources intends to open the spillway boat launch ramp after construction at the dam is complete, but there is a possibility it will stay out of commission, according to a department official. The spillway boat launch is the largest on the lake, with up to 12 lanes when the water is high enough.
With just more than two weeks until the initial reconstruction of the main spillway at Lake Oroville is supposed to be completed, the Department of Water Resources released operations plan for the reservoir for this coming flood season.
In February, a huge hole opened in the Lake Oroville main spillway. The cause of the hole is still undetermined. … State and federal agencies devised a plan to quickly repair or replace the structures at the lake.
Where are all the fish? That’s what hatchery workers are wondering, left scratching their heads after seeing low levels for spring-run Chinook salmon – about a third of the average for this time period.
After big natural disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, federal officials often tighten up flood protection standards. That’s what happened in California after Hurricane Katrina twelve years ago. But many flood-prone communities are still struggling to meet those standards, including Sacramento, one of the riskiest flood zones in the country.
State lawmakers responsible for the safety of residents downstream from Lake Oroville applaud the Department of Water Resources reconstruction to the dam’s damaged primary and emergency spillways, but the lawmakers still want answers and accountability for the cause of February’s near-catastrophe.
The Sacramento and San Joaquin are the two major rivers in the Central Valley that feed the Delta, the hub of California’s water supply network.
Our last two water tours of 2017 will take in-depth looks at how these rivers are managed and used for agriculture, cities and the environment. You’ll see infrastructure, learn about efforts to restore salmon runs and talk to people with expertise on these rivers.
A single photograph of rapid erosion below Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway — and an unidentified geologist’s worried question about whether the local sheriff knew how dire the situation might be — were the key events that led to the evacuation of 180,000 people living along the Feather River on Feb. 12.
In the confusion and chaos of the emergency at Oroville Dam, as thousands of residents were being evacuated, public safety officials and others involved in managing the crisis found themselves clashing with the people operating the nation’s tallest dam.
A towering spillway at the nation’s tallest dam was crumbling, and tens of thousands of people were fleeing for their lives. But as darkness fell, state officials realized dealing with the unfolding crisis in Northern California was about to get even worse: They couldn’t see.
Faulty design, construction and repairs of the main Oroville Dam spillway allowed water to seep under its floor and build up, lifting a concrete slab Feb. 7 into the water flowing down the chute, starting a chain of events that largely wrecked the structure.
Sites Reservoir has been talked about for decades, but now that project officials — and backed by 70 major allies — have formally submitted an application for state bond money, the question arises: Will this $5 billion project actually come to pass?
Bad design and construction of the tallest U.S. dam a half-century ago and inadequate state and federal oversight since then led to a disastrous spillway collapse in February, an independent national team of dam safety experts said Tuesday as they urged tougher safety reviews nationwide.
A team investigating the Oroville Dam spillway breach in February said it has not seen evidence that a comprehensive review of its construction and design has ever been conducted since it was built nearly 40 years ago. … Agencies like the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Shasta Dam, do more comprehensive construction and design reviews.