Lake Oroville spillway reconstruction still on schedule

Crews work Monday on slab anchors placed and grouted into the leveling concrete on the bottom 350 feet of the chute of the main Oroville Dam spillway. Structural concrete will be poured over this portion of the spillway.
Crews work Monday on slab anchors placed and grouted into the leveling concrete on the bottom 350 feet of the chute of the main Oroville Dam spillway. Structural concrete will be poured over this portion of the spillway.Dale Kolke — Department of Water Resources

Watch the concrete pour on the Oroville Dam upper spillway as repairs continue
Sacramento Bee
Crews Monday wash loose material from the surface of roller compacted concrete recently placed into one of the voids that eroded from under the chute of the main Oroville dam spillway during the February emergency.Crews Monday wash loose material from the surface of roller compacted concrete recently placed into one of the voids that eroded from under the chute of the main Oroville dam spillway during the February emergency.

Reconstruction of the lower part of Oroville Dam’s spillway is on schedule, the state and its contractor said Wednesday.

The spillway will be able to handle releases of 100,000 cubic feet per second if needed on Nov. 1, according to representatives of the Department of Water Resources, the Natural Resources Department and Kiewit, the contractor doing the work.

About 2,270 feet of spillway has been demolished, and it will be rebuilt this year with a combination of structural concrete and roller compacted concrete. The latter doesn’t have as much reinforcement but is “acceptable in spillway and dam construction,” according to Erin Mellon of the National Resources Department, the communications manager for the project.

A topping of structural concrete will be placed over the roller compacted concrete next year. The top 730 feet of the spillway, which is just being patched this year, will be demolished and replaced as well in 2018.

What people looking at the webcams showing the construction are seeing now is the placement leveling concrete on the bottom 350 feet of the spillway. Structural concrete will be placed over that. The same construction technique will be used on the top 870 feet of the spillway to be reconstructed this year as well.

The space between — 1,050 feet — will be filled with roller compacted concrete. It is already being used to fill the deepest void that was gouged out from beneath the spillway, according to Jeff Petersen, Kiewit’s project director, and use of that material should become visible on the webcams soon.

He said construction of the walls on the sides of the spillway should begin in the next couple of weeks.

The final construction plans for this year were approved last week by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the state Division of Dam Safety, according to DWR project manager Ted Craddock, who called that a milestone.


Petersen said Kiewit has removed 23,000 cubic yards of old concrete and excavated 332,000 cubic yards of earth and rock so far, which is about 80 percent of what will eventually be necessary.

At the bottom of the spillway, 7,000 cubic yards of leveling concrete has been poured, and the first 560 cubic yards of what will eventually be 330,000 cubic yards of roller compacted concrete have been placed.

More than 100 people are working on the spillway, day and night.

He said pouring so much concrete during this unusually hot summer is a challenge, but the concrete is made with ice rather than water. “We also have liquid nitrogen available if necessary,” he said.


DWR has approval to draw the Lake Oroville surface level down to 700 feet of elevation by Nov. 1, which Mellon called more conservative than usual. That’s to allow room for storm runoff, because although the spillway will be ready for use Nov. 1, they’d clearly rather not use it this year.

For the last 10 years, the lake level on Nov. 1 has fluctuated between 856 feet in 2011, to 657 feet in 2014, according to the DWR website. The average for those 10 years on Nov. 1 was 726 feet.

Joel Ledesma, deputy director of the State Water Project, said it was too early to say whether drawing the lake down to 700 feet would have any impact on water deliveries in 2018. 


USDA Gives $15 Million for Wetlands Restoration

USDA Announces $15 Million Public-Private Investment to Improve Critical Wetlands

Sarah Haymaker

WASHINGTON, July 20 2017 – The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service today announced that the agency will award $13 million to projects in seven states to protect, restore and enhance wetlands on private and tribal agricultural lands. The projects are being funded under the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP).

“These locally-led partnerships are instrumental in achieving greater wetland acreage and maximizing their benefits to farmers, ranchers and the local and rural communities where wetlands exist.” NRCS Acting Chief Leonard Jordan said.

Wetland reserve easements enable landowners to successfully reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater, enhance and protect wildlife habitat and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities.

WREP project partners are investing nearly $2 million in these projects, bringing the total investment to approximately $15 million. In total, the projects will help to protect, restore or enhance over 25,000 acres of wetlands in critical watersheds across the nation. These partners work directly with eligible landowners interested in enrolling their agricultural land into conservation wetland easements.

Today’s announcement includes high-priority watershed projects in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

Arkansas:  The purpose of this project is to utilize the partnering strength of the Tri-state Conservation Coordination Committee to collaboratively develop and implement a multi-state WREP project that focuses on restoration of forested wetlands within priority portions of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, including specific targeting of priority watersheds of the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI). The project will address the three primary natural resource concerns for the Mississippi River Basin: water quality, water quantity and wildlife habitat, including critical habitat for the Louisiana black bear, migratory waterfowl and wetland-dependent wildlife. NRCS plans to invest $4.8 million in this project to restore more than 1,500 acres.

Georgia: Recovery and delisting of federally Endangered Canby’s dropwort is a priority for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Canby’s dropwort occurs in cypress savanna depression wetlands, and 18 of 21 of its occurrences are on privately owned agricultural lands. The primary objectives of this proposal are to protect the entire Canby’s dropwort populations, protect and restore high priority cypress savanna and cypress swamp habitats, and implement a sound management plan that prioritizes restoration of the rare species and habitats within the project area. This project will also provide the resources needed for protection and hydrologic and habitat restoration for the Neyami Savanna wetlands, which will help advance the recovery of Canby’s dropwort. NRCS plans to invest $1.19 million in this project.

Mississippi:  The purpose of the proposed project is to protect the vegetation and hydrology restoration on easements by trapping and removing feral swine and enhance habitat for migratory waterfowl on easements by providing wetland management plans and practice incentive payments to eligible landowners. NRCS funds will be directed towards monitoring, assessment, management plans and documentation of feral swine damage to properties. NRCS plans to invest $3 million in this project.

Tennessee:  The purpose of this project is to achieve more sustainable land and water management in the active floodplain of the Lower Mississippi, thus providing significant ecological, economic and societal benefits. This is predominantly restoration and enhancement work of existing easements. The proposed project constitutes the fourth phase of a continuing effort that began in 2012. Efforts to date under Phases I-III have resulted in applications of enrollment for approximately 16,000 acres of private land in the project area. NRCS plans to invest $4 million in this project to restore or enhance an additional 1,301 acres in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

Visit NRCS’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program webpage to learn more about NRCS’s wetland conservation opportunities.

Government-Funded Environmental Conservation Practices

Did you know there are funds available to land owners for the specific purpose of environmental conserv?  Water quality, air quality, dust and erosion control, watersheds, ag land management, and much more.

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers in order to address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, reduced soil erosion and sedimentation or improved or created wildlife habitat.

Benefits Eligible program participants receive financial and technical assistance to implement conservation practices, or activities like conservation planning, that address natural resource concerns on their land. Payments are made to participants after conservation practices and activities identified in an EQIP plan of operations are implemented. Contracts can last up to ten years in duration.

Visit the National Resources Conservation Source for more details, or contact your local service center or NRCS office for assistance on the conservation planning process and program eligibility.

Alan Forkey, Program Manager
Phone: 530-792-5653

Erik Beardsley, Program Specialist
Phone: 530-792-5649


Soil Conservation

The soil covering the surface of the earth has taken millions of years to form and we must learn to respect it. Soil is formed at a rate of only 1 cm every 100 to 400 years and it takes 3,000 to 12,000 years to build enough soil to form productive land. This means that soil is a nonrenewable resource and once destroyed it is gone forever.

If we disregard this, a time will come when there would not be enough soil left to sustain life on earth, because the soil is a necessary growth medium for plants, a home for certain insects and animals, as well as a medium from which we get minerals, such as gold. It is important therefore to treat soil, especially topsoil, as a living entity.

Particulate Matter

PM stands for particulate matter (also called particle pollution): the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye. Others are so small they can only be detected using an electron microscope.

Particle pollution includes:

  • PM10 : inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 10 micrometers and smaller; and
  • PM2.5 : fine inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometers and smaller.
    • How small is 2.5 micrometers? Think about a single hair from your head. The average human hair is about 70 micrometers in diameter – making it 30 times larger than the largest fine particle.

Sources of PM

These particles come in many sizes and shapes and can be made up of hundreds of different chemicals.

Some are emitted directly from a source, such as construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, smokestacks or fires.

Most particles form in the atmosphere as a result of complex reactions of chemicals such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which are pollutants emitted from power plants, industries and automobiles.

What are the Harmful Effects of PM?

Particulate matter contains microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems. Particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter pose the greatest problems, because they can get deep into your lungs, and some may even get into your bloodstream.

Fine particles (PM2.5) are the main cause of reduced visibility (haze) in parts of the United States, including many of our treasured national parks and wilderness areas.

Health and Environmental Effects of Particulate Matter (PM)

Health Effects

The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. Small particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter pose the greatest problems, because they can get deep into your lungs, and some may even get into your bloodstream.

Exposure to such particles can affect both your lungs and your heart. Numerous scientific studies have linked particle pollution exposure to a variety of problems, including:
  • premature death in people with heart or lung disease
  • nonfatal heart attacks
  • irregular heartbeat
  • aggravated asthma
  • decreased lung function
  • increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty breathing.

People with heart or lung diseases, children, and older adults are the most likely to be affected by particle pollution exposure.

  • AirNow can help you monitor air quality near you, and protect yourself and your family from elevated PM levels.

Environmental Effects

Visibility impairment

Fine particles (PM2.5) are the main cause of reduced visibility (haze) in parts of the United States, including many of our treasured national parks and wilderness areas. Learn more about visibility and haze

Environmental damage

Particles can be carried over long distances by wind and then settle on ground or water.  Depending on their chemical composition, the effects of this settling may include:
  • making lakes and streams acidic
  • changing the nutrient balance in coastal waters and large river basins
  • depleting the nutrients in soil
  • damaging sensitive forests and farm crops
  • affecting the diversity of ecosystems
  • contributing to acid rain effects.


The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for six criteria pollutants; particle pollution (also known as particulate matter) is one of these.  EPA works with partners at state, local, and tribal air quality agencies to meet these standards.


California Ambient Air Quality Standards for PM
Averaging Time PM 10 PM 2.5
Annual * 20 µg/m3 12 µg/m3
24 Hours 50 µg/m3 See Below **
State and Federal Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter
California ARB Standard PM10 Federal EPA Standard PM10
Annual Average 20 µg/m3 N/A
24-Hour Average 50 µg/m3 150 µg/m3
California ARB Standard PM2.5 Federal EPA Standard PM2.5
Annual Average 12 µg/m3 12.0 µg/m3
24-Hour Average ——– 35 µg/m3



Is the drought over?

Just 5 percent of the United States is experiencing drought conditions, the lowest level of drought here since government scientific agencies began updating the U.S. Drought Monitor on a weekly basis in 2000.

Record rain and snowfall over the winter on the West Coast and heavy spring rains in the Midwest have alleviated some of the worst and longest-lasting drought conditions ever recorded.

That parching, years-long drought came after another rainy period, in 2010, when just 8 percent of the U.S. experienced drought conditions. The boom-and-bust cycle is likely caused by climate change that creates more extreme weather patterns, scientists say.

At its driest point, in September 2012, 20 percent of the nation experienced what climatologists deemed “extreme” drought.

Today, small parts of Southern Georgia and Central Florida are still experiencing extreme drought. The drought has amplified several large wildfires in Georgia and Florida, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration said.

Parts of southern Arizona are in the midst of a long-term severe drought, while scattered areas of Texas, Colorado, the Dakotas and the greater Washington, D.C., region are dealing with more moderate water shortages.

No state has experienced the highs and lows more than California. As recently as September, the entire state was experiencing at least some drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, and 43 percent of the state experienced extreme drought.

Today, after a rainy winter fueled by a so-called Pineapple Express weather system, more than three-quarters of the state is drought-free. Only the Los Angeles area and some inland counties near the U.S.-Mexico border are overly parched.

“California’s drought was alleviated by atmospheric rivers that brought heavy rains earlier this year,” Matthew Rodell, a NASA hydrologist, said in a statement. “Combine that with recent precipitation across much of the northwestern and central parts of the nation, and the result is a much wetter-than-normal map.”

Now, California faces the opposite problem. Heavy rain and snowfall have damaged systems meant to capture water, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

The federal government has already said it will send California $274 million to repair the Oroville Dam, where damage to a spillway forced the evacuation of almost 200,000 people in February. Water officials are worried that heavy rains could damage other dams in Northern California, too.