OROVILLE, Calif. (KTXL) — The drought is taking its toll on dams and rivers throughout California and there is no clearer example than at Lake Oroville where water levels have been dropping all year.
“It’s been dropping fast all year,” said fisherman Jeremiah Corlin. “It’s been slowing down, but it’s still dropping fast.”
The Oroville Dam is the state water system’s tallest, but boaters and fishermen have witnessed the water level fall nearly 250 feet below average.
State water regulators are required to release water to protect fish downstream. They are trying to preserve as much water as possible, but levels are dropping a foot a day.
At that rate, the water will go below the intakes for the dam’s hydropower station for the first time. That means state power regulators will have to find other sources of electricity to power over 80,000 homes — a relatively small amount of what is used statewide.
Oroville resident Kevin Goodman said low water also means fewer tourist dollars.
“Ain’t people boating or nothing like that,” Goodman told FOX40. “Stores around here are missing out on it, really.”
But oddly enough, the fishing is better than average for those who are careful with their boats.
“It’s murky in spots, pretty dirty. You need to watch out for rocks up in the coves and sandbars,” Corlin explained.
Jamey Sorensen at North Valley Tackle and Pro Shop said the two boat launch areas are a couple of hundred feet below the paved ramps. Temporary steep gravel ramps require four-wheel drive.
“The first time you try to launch and you are not successful, it is going to keep you away,” Sorensen said.
But it’s worth the headaches for those who are catching their limits.
“It’s worth it to me. I’ll come back tomorrow and the next day after that and all summer,” Corlin said.
Long-range weather forecasting is always a difficult proposition, but some say it may take two or three years before water levels at Lake Oroville are back to historical averages.