September 24 2021 03:30 pm

Historically low water levels at Oroville Dam could cause loss of hydroelectric power

California

BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — A hydroelectric plant at the Oroville Dam is on track to stop generating electricity soon, and it’s already reached a concerning milestone due to drought conditions plaguing bodies of water statewide.

The Oroville Dam is at its lowest level ever, about 642.5 feet.

The Oroville Dam doesn’t just provide a steady feed into the Feather and Sacramento rivers, it generates hydroelectric power.

If the dam drops another 2 feet, it can no longer safely power the Edward Hyatt Power Plant, the California Department of Water and Power reported.

Intake tubes from the reservoir to the Hyatt hydroelectric plant are partially sticking out of the water. 

The Department of Water Resources continues to release water from the dam into the Feather River, with little or no rain or snowmelt to replace it. At the rate the levels are dropping, the hydropower from the plant could be shut down as soon as Wednesday.

The Edward Hyatt Power Plant is estimated to provide power for the equivalent of 80,000 customers. The power grid is expected to be able to absorb the loss.

However, people who use the lake for recreation or as residences aren’t as lucky.

“I think it feels much more severe than any drought in our lifetime. I mean we’ve seen the ebb and flow our whole lives but not like this,” said houseboat resident Sue St. Germain.

The St. Germains, from the Bay Area, are among those who have been able to keep their houseboat on the water after more than 100 were removed from marinas so the boats didn’t get stranded in low water.

The California Department of Water Resources sent FOX40 the following statement:

DWR can confirm that at midnight August 3, Lake Oroville reached a new historic low elevation of 642.73 feet. The previous lowest elevation of 645 feet was reached in September 1977. DWR continues to focus on reservoir operations and water storage management at Lake Oroville to preserve as much storage in the reservoir as possible to ensure some cold water is available for when it is needed for the fall salmon run and to ensure that a minimal amount of water supply is available for critical water uses in case drought conditions continue into 2022.

Staff continue to monitor Hyatt operations and we will provide an update and a statement when the status changes.


John Yarbrough, Assistant Deputy Director of the State Water Project, Department of Water Resources

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