Gushing water from the Oroville Dam is means two things for people recreating on the Feather River. "The current will get stronger and the water level will rise.. Which will actually make, what we call, hidden dangers," says Butte County Sheriff Search and Rescue Lt. Kevin Lucero.
The California Department of Water Resources released the Oroville Dam Thursday, in an effort to improve conditions for the Chinook Salmon's spring run, as well as help with maintenance on river outlet gates for the Thermalito Afterbay. But the release is also expected to raise the river flow from 600 cubic feet per second to roughly 5,000.. and the river level up one to three feet in the Oroville area.
"It can be extremely dangerous," says Lucero. Jason Smith CA State Parks Supervising Ranger says, "The water can always be dangerous at any time of the year, if you swim outside the normal areas or your experienced level." So members of the Parks Department along with Butte County Sheriffs Search and Rescue, are encouraging people to be safe while enjoying time on the river. Lucero says, "We also want folks to be aware of their surroundings. Hypothermia can set in extremely quickly." Smith says, "You might not be able to see what's underneath the water, so be safe there. Swim within sight of an adult, limit your amount of alcohol assumption on the river."
They also say a life jacket is always a must for swimmers and boaters. And when all of these safety guidelines are followed, the slight rise in current isn't strong enough to discourage fun on the river. "This is going to have a negligible effect and with the warm weather that we're having right now and the cool waters and the spring melt we're still getting right now, it's a great time to enjoy what butte county has to offer," says Smith. The river increase will last two to three weeks.