The Department of Water Resources is closely watching the burn scar of the 2021 Dixie Fire, the state’s largest single fire in history.
“We haven't studied the effect that that scale [of a fire] would have on runoff conditions into Oroville [Reservoir],” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth, during a presentation to the State Board of Food and Agriculture this week.
DWR has placed more real-time data sensors within that watershed to get a better read on snowmelt, she explained. But Nemeth was not worried if a major atmospheric river were to hit the region, since Oroville’s lake level is low enough to absorb most of that runoff. The state could deliver some of that water into the Feather River watershed within the Sacramento Valley to replenish groundwater pumped during the drought.
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Nemeth also noted that two new Delta intakes for the State Water Project mean DWR can deliver more water south during storm events without disrupting fish populations.
Nemeth pointed out that Oroville actually has more water than the much larger Shasta Reservoir right now, which is “highly, highly unusual.” It indicates the importance of where exactly an atmospheric river makes landfall, she explained, adding that state and federal agencies are investing in new research and technology to better forecast those events.