Oroville Settlement Benefits Feather River and Local Community

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Contact: Steve Rothert, American Rivers: 530-277-0448 Amy Kober, American Rivers: 206-213-0330 x23Oroville, CA -- Salmon and steelhead of the Feather River, along with the many people who fish and boat there, will benefit from an agreement covering operations of the Oroville hydroelectric project, to be signed today in Oroville. American Rivers praised settlement parties for reaching this agreement, which forms the basis of a new 50-year operating license for the project.The agreement is the result of two years of negotiations among over 40 parties including American Rivers, federal and state agencies, local governments, water providers and Native American tribes. It will now be submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for approval. "For years the Oroville project has harmed salmon and steelhead habitat and has limited opportunities for fishing, boating and other recreation," said Steve Rothert of American Rivers. "This agreement restores some balance to the river, and includes many benefits for clean water, fish and wildlife and local communities." At 770 feet high, Oroville Dam is the tallest in the United States. It is the main water storage facility for California's State Water Project, which supplies water to some 23 million municipal and agricultural customers from San Diego to Redding. Owned by the state and operated by the Department of Water Resources (DWR), the project has a generating capacity of 750MW. The water supply and hydropower operations of Oroville Dam cause significant adverse impacts to the Feather River, including the degradation and loss of spawning and rearing habitat for listed spring run Chinook and steelhead trout, degraded water quality, loss of beneficial sediments and large woody debris, and diminished river recreation opportunities. "We have a responsibility to fix some of the damage dams cause to our rivers," Rothert said. "It is simple common sense to bring these old dams up to date with today's science, technology, and laws. This agreement for Oroville Dam makes both environmental and economic sense." The agreement will remedy some of the impacts caused by the project's operations. Key components include:

  • Restored salmon and steelhead habitat: Downstream of the dam, DWR will improve flows and water temperatures, add spawning gravels and large woody debris, and restore floodplain and side-channel habitat.
  • Better river recreation: DWR will add river access points and campsites to create a 15-mile-long Feather River bluewater trail. A new park with trails, picnic areas, an interpretive center and boat launching areas will be constructed. DWR will also fund a study to determine the feasibility of constructing whitewater recreation facilities in Oroville.
  • Community benefits: DWR is committing $50 million to be allocated to river-related projects to stimulate economic activity in the area and reconnect the community with the river.
  • Fish passage study: To mitigate for the loss of upstream spawning habitat, DWR and PG& E -- which operates dams upstream on the Feather and in other river basins -- will work together with agencies and other stakeholders to evaluate fish passage opportunities in the Feather and surrounding river basins and implement the most promising project.

"Healthy rivers are important community assets. This agreement will ensure that local citizens will enjoy and benefit from the Feather River for generations to come," Rothert said. American Rivers looks forward to working with other parties to implement the agreement, and to address issues not completely resolved today, including issues raised by the county and certain flood management issues.