Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey
Environmental scientists from DWR recently participated in the National Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey on Jan. 6 and Jan. 9. This nationwide effort, coordinated by the USACE, aims to determine bald eagle distribution and identify areas of important winter habitats. This year’s official count was 176 bald eagles for the Lake Oroville Winter Roost and three at the Thermalito Complex. This is the highest count for the Lake Oroville Winter Roost since DWR began survey participation in 2003.
Lake Oroville and the Feather River area provide an ideal habitat for bald eagles. Fish are one of the eagle’s main food sources and large water bodies like Lake Oroville provide a wide variety of fish and other favorite food sources such as waterfowl, small birds, and mammals. The many trees and snags (tall dead trees) near water areas provide prime roosting and hunting locations for the bald eagles that migrate to and through the area during the winter months.
LAKESIDE ACCESS ROAD CLOSED
Rising reservoir levels at Lake Oroville have required the closure of the newly constructed Lakeside Access Road, which will not reopen until water levels drop back down later this year. With the road closure in effect, vehicle access to the Spillway Boat Ramp and Day Use Area will now be via Oroville Dam Crest Road.
Vehicle access to the Spillway Boat Ramp and Day Use Area is available between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. There are three other boat ramps at Lake Oroville that are open 24 hours a day: Bidwell Canyon, Loafer Point, and Lime Saddle.
At just 60 percent of its total capacity, Lake Oroville still has ample storage to capture storm runoff while providing flood control protection for the Feather River and downstream communities. Water inflows to the reservoir during recent storms have been as high as 50,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) while outflows in the Feather River through Oroville remain at a minimum of 650 cfs. Current outflows are being used to support local water needs and maintain flood control and are not part of water deliveries to Southern California.
In addition, DWR Oroville Field Division Civil Maintenance crews are patrolling Lake Oroville daily to collect woody debris as part of normal operations during this time of year. Boaters are advised to be alert for floating debris, which is expected during high reservoir inflows.
FUEL LOAD MANAGEMENT
DWR continues vegetation management activities around the Oroville area to remove overgrown vegetation and create a more wildfire resilient landscape. Over the next few months, you may see crews working in various areas including Loafer Creek, Canyon Drive, along Oro Dam Blvd. East, and the Feather River Fish Hatchery. CAL FIRE, Butte County Fire Department, Butte County Sheriff’s Office, California Conservation Corps (CCC), and crews from the Butte Fire Center continue to cut, pile, chip, and pile burn as weather allows. Vegetation management activities will continue through the winter, weather permitting. Smoke from pile burning activities will continue to be visible in the Oroville area.
DWR’s Fuel Load Management Plan (FLMP) works to reduce wildfire risk and increase public safety around Lake Oroville. Previous FLMP projects in the Loafer Creek Recreation Area have been identified as contributing to the slowing of the 2020 North Complex Fire as it approached Kelly Ridge, increasing firefighters’ ability to establish a secure fire line and preventing the fire from progressing. Ongoing management of the FLMP remains a high priority for DWR and local partners.
The Lake Oroville Visitor Center is open Tuesday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and offers visitors numerous educational exhibits, a theater featuring videos about the building of Oroville Dam, walking and hiking trails, and a 47-foot-tall observation tower providing unsurpassed panoramic views.
DWR, State Parks, and State Fish & Wildlife maintain over 92 miles of trails in the Oroville area, including those around the Lake Oroville Visitor Center. There are paved, accessible trails with only slight elevation changes by the Visitor Center and the North Forebay Day Use Area. Other trails, such as the Brad Freeman Trail between the Spillway Day Use Area and the Diversion Pool, offer steep elevation changes to challenge hikers and mountain bikers. The Saddle Dam Trailhead has facilities for equestrians, including a large parking area to accommodate horse trailers, water trough, and hitching posts, and easy access to trails designated for hikers and horses.
An interactive map of recreation facilities and their permitted uses (hike, bike, horse, multi) is available on DWR’s Lake Oroville Recreation webpage.
With rising lake levels, paved boat ramps are available at the Spillway, Loafer Point, Bidwell Canyon, the Thermalito Afterbay, and the Thermalito South Forebay. The Bidwell Canyon Marina is also open from 8 a.m. until sundown and provides a variety of services such as a shuttle and boat rentals.
CURRENT LAKE OPERATIONS
Oroville’s reservoir is about 793 feet elevation and storage is approximately 2.12 million acre-feet (MAF), which is 60 percent of its total capacity and 107 percent of the historical average. Dry weather and sunshine are returning to the forecast for the upcoming week.
The Feather River releases are currently at 950 cubic feet per second (cfs). Flows through the City of Oroville are 650 cfs with 300 cfs released from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet (Outlet) for a total of 950 cfs downstream of the Outlet. 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 01/19/2023.
California is in its third year of drought conditions. With water conservation now a way of life in California, everyone is encouraged to find ways to save water. See tips, tools, and ideas on the Save Our Water website. Information about real time local hydrological conditions, forecasts, and water conditions is available on DWR’s new website California Water Watch.