From drought to floods. Such is the state of life in California.

There has been so much rain and snow this year that state officials on March 10 started releasing water via the Oroville Dam spillway; something that hasn’t happened since April 2019.

“Road closed” didn’t hinder us from our quest to see the water tumbling over the spillway.

We parked and started walking the nearly three-quarters of a mile before we could hear and see the roar of white water descending the concrete spillway on its way to the Feather River.

Near the bottom the churning water was like a boiling caldron—though this water was far from being hot.

Water descends the Oroville Dam spillway on March 18. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

A light mist drifted our way. It was like being close to a thundering waterfall. Mom and I were there on March 18. That day the Department of Water Resources was releasing 35,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) from the Lake Oroville to the Feather River, with 23,000 cfs flowing through the low-flow channel within the city of Oroville.  On March 20 the flow from the spillway was reduced to 27,500 cfs, with 16,500 cfs flowing through the low-flow channel.

The state agency said, “These releases are being made in coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and downstream water operators for flood control protection to surrounding communities. DWR continues to closely monitor lake inflow levels and will adjust releases accordingly.”

Lake Oroville is the largest State Water Project reservoir, which provides water for 27 million people along with various ag interests.

On March 17, the water level at the lake hit 867 feet. Full is considered 900 feet. On March 20 the lake was at 858 feet.

Department of Water Resources officials in their overbearing nanny state way decided to close Oro Dam Boulevard between Rusty Dusty Road and Canyon Drive because “higher releases from the main spillway cause excessive water spray across the road and reduce driver visibility. This section will remain closed to traffic until releases from the main spillway are reduced to a level that is safe for motorists.”

(Images: Kathryn Reed)

Oh my god, people, really? Like we haven’t been driving in rain here all winter. Like there isn’t fog to contend with in the valley. Like snow isn’t an issue for this region, too—really, there is snow close by. A little water spray is considered dangerous?

Now, I can see closing the road to deter looky-loos like me and mom. But be truthful DWR. You don’t want to deal with the traffic so some bogus reason for the road closure is the easy out.

The road did reopen March 21 after the flow was decreased and that dangerous mist went away.

The spillway really is something to see in person.

With wet weather in the forecast for the rest of this month and the snowpack so voluminous, this reservoir will be full.

Pin It on Pinterest