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What’s the Oroville Dam and Why is it So Enormous?

The Oroville Dam is situated in California, and it’s the tallest dam in the US at a towering 770 toes. The dam creates Lake Oroville, which is the second largest reservoir within the state of California. It’s northeast of Sacramento within the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

In part of the state that fluctuates between excessive flood circumstances and devastating droughts, reservoirs just like the Oroville Dam are very important as a result of they regulate water throughout these occasions. Nevertheless, their crumbling infrastructure and local weather change are rapidly taking their toll.

We’re going to debate extra data defining what the Oroville Dam is, in addition to talk about why it’s so large. Then we’ll talk about wildlife close to the Oroville Dam and go over the security of the dam. Let’s get began!

What’s the Oroville Dam?

On the Oroville Dam, the core is manufactured from particular concrete that can also be impenetrable to water.

The Oroville Dam is an earthfill dam. An earthfill dam is manufactured from a core of compacted earth or cement. When filth is chosen for this, the composition of the filth is rigorously thought of to verify the core is impermeable. On the Oroville Dam, the core is manufactured from particular concrete that can also be impenetrable to water.

The core is roofed with gravel and sand referred to as rockfill supplies. There have been research on which rockfill supplies are applicable, as their actual composition compared to the native soil is one thing that must be thought of.

The Oroville Dam controls the Feather River. Launched water travels down the river and connects to the Sacramento River earlier than it enters the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. From there, water is diverted into the California Aqueduct.

The California Aqueduct takes water south of Los Angeles, and a drop of water that deposits into Lake Oroville travels the aqueduct for ten days earlier than it reaches the top of it.

Why is the Oroville Dam So Enormous?

What is the Oroville Dam and Why is it So - August 9, 2022
The Oroville Dam is so large due to a steep valley created by the Feather River.

Joe Woods/

The Oroville Dam is so large as a result of it wants to carry again floodwaters in a important location alongside California’s naturally advanced watercourses. For the reason that dam is on the base of the mountains proper the place the forks of the feather river converge in a steep canyon, it was an incredible place to assemble a dam. This was to realize management over large portions of wanted freshwater at a location that gives a deep reservoir proper the place it’s wanted. It’s so tall as a result of it could possibly be based mostly on the native geography.

The floods that have been taking place on the Feather River have been so dangerous that they have been inflicting hundreds of thousands in harm each few years. The water calls for of an arid state additionally required radical motion to right, and the development of the Oroville Dam was an enormous response to an enormous downside.

Why Was the Oroville Dam Constructed?

The Oroville Dam was constructed to regulate floodwaters throughout moist winters and supply saved water throughout droughts.

The California Division of Water Assets constructed the dam in the course of the institution of the statewide water system. Building started in 1961, was completed in 1967, and the dam started for use in 1968.

The Oroville Dam can also be a big producer of electrical energy, and it started getting used on this capability as quickly because the dam was operational. It gives invaluable flood management for the Sacramento Valley and is important in offering irrigation for agriculture within the San Joaquin Valley south of the Sacramento Valley.

Coastal Southern California wanted a strong municipal water provide, and the Oroville Dam rectified that state of affairs. The California Aqueduct, which wouldn’t be potential with out the Oroville Dam in Northern California, is the principle cause that California can assist Los Angeles and create the mattress basket of the world in its large valley.

Wildlife and the Oroville Dam

Chinook Salmon isolated on white background.
Chinook salmon use a fish ladder right into a hatchery as a way to circumvent the Oroville Dam.


Wildlife has been negatively affected by the development of the dam. For the reason that dam blocks the pure watercourse and movement of the Feather River, it has created a deterioration of the pure habitat alongside its banks.

Sediment from the watershed above the river now doesn’t make it into the river system that continues past the dam. It gathers within the lake, inflicting issues and resulting in the degradation of habitat down the river. That is affecting each fish and flowers.

Fish are additionally unable to journey the size of the river, which impacts fish populations downstream. As with different California dams, the Oroville Dam now has an accompanying fish hatchery to assist handle the state of affairs.

The 2 fish of most concern are the steelhead trout and the Chinook salmon. Their migration is totally blocked by the Oroville Dam.

Earlier than fish attain the unpassable a part of the river, they’re redirected up a fish ladder right into a hatchery. The hatchery endeavor has carried out so nicely that there at the moment are issues that the hatchery’s fish are pushing out the wild fish of their pure habitat.

A lot concern is directed towards steelhead trout and Chinook salmon as a result of they make up 20% of those fish varieties caught within the Pacific Ocean. This 20% accounts for each hatchery spawned and wild populations.

Lake Oroville can also be dwelling to catfish, sturgeon, bass, crappie, mackinaw, and bluegill. The elderberry shrubs discovered alongside the lake are dwelling to longhorn beetles, that are a threatened species. There are guidelines in place concerning the proximity of pesticides to elderberries to protect these beetles’ habitat.

Is the Oroville Dam Protected?

1654185944 190 What is the Oroville Dam and Why is it So - August 9, 2022
It was feared the Oroville Dam would possibly fail after storms in 2017.


The Oroville Dam is protected for now. It has undergone current inspections that authorised repairs to infrastructure that have been lengthy overdue.

As a result of a 100-year storm rolled in in the course of the 2016-2017 winter in California, the earthen spillway from the Nineteen Sixties was used for the primary time as a result of the principle concrete spillway eroded and have become unsafe. Sadly, the filth emergency spillway began eroding the filth beneath it, and there was a deep concern that your entire embankment would come down.

There have been issues concerning the security of the getting old earthen dam for years, and in 2017, the state of affairs escalated right into a disaster. Over 180,000 residents have been evacuated because of the erosion of the very important spillway, which threatened to ship a wall of water downstream.

Earlier than then, issues had been raised about cracked spillways, damaged valves, and different maladies that ought to have been addressed as they arose. For the reason that 2017 occasion, main development has occurred on the dam, so this case can be averted sooner or later.

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