With rainfall in Northern California reaching historic proportions this winter, Department of Water Resources officials are keeping an eye on the brand-new Oroville Dam spillway, which has a small chance of being used in the near future.
As of Friday, the Oroville Lake water level sat at 775 feet, just short of the water chute gates, which sit at 813 feet. Although it would take a significant 38 foot rise in water to use the spillway, DWR is preparing is staying prepared for an incident.
Up to 5 inches of rain this week could fall on Oroville this week, with more hitting the snowpack in higher elevations, causing runoff into the lake.
Even if the chutes are opened at 813 feet, DWR indicates that flooding would not occur until the water level reaches 835-850 feet. More options include funneling water through the Hyatt Powerplant and turning up the river output to 4,000 cubic feet per second.
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. Construction crews are still putting the finishing touches on the spillway, but assert that it is currently functional.
The dam remains closed but officials indicate it could reopen this summer.