With heavy rain and snow slamming into the Central Sierra Mountains, the spillway at Lake Davis overflowed for the first time in 21 years, re-igniting concerns about the downstream water level rising at Oroville Dam.
AccuWeather reported that a heavy rain system, turning to 4 inches of snow above 5000 feet and 6 to 12 inches above 6500 feet, hit Portola, California area and nearby Lake Davis. Coupled with warm weather melting a record snowpack, Lake Davis began overflowing on March 21 for the first time since 1996.
The California Department of Water Resources issued a warning to downstream residents, boaters, and fishermen to be prepared for higher stream levels and faster water flow due to water topping the 800-feet-wide by 115-feet-high Grizzly Valley Dam’s spillway.
The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), in a widely controversial initiative, poisoned the 84,000-acre-foot Lake Davis with 16,000 gallons of the chemical rotenone in 1997 and 2007, supposedly to eradicate the non-native northern pike, a species believed to have been transplanted from the Rocky Mountains. The DWR also lowered the lake levels to prevent the pike and the poison from entering local creeks and the Feather River.
The DFG stated that its goal was to prevent the pike from traveling downstream to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where they could prey on the Delta smelt and other threatened fish species. But Plumas County residents vehemently opposed the DFG over the risk of poisoning their drinking water and causing a collapse of the local tourist industry that provides a quarter of all jobs in Plumas County.
Only 8 percent of the fish death toll from the 1997 poisoning was northern pike. Of the 50,000 pounds of dead fish disposed of after they floated to the surface, about 46,000 pounds were rainbow trout, catfish, shiners and other bait fish, according to articles in the local Portola Press Democrat.
Representatives from the DWR told Breitbart News that they had notified the community in December 2016 that Lake Davis reservoir would be allowed to fill and full lake operations would be allowed to resume. The DWR acknowledged that although the water overflowing the dam would exceed 200 cubic feet per second, they do not believe that there will be a negative impact about 50 miles downstream at Lake Oroville.
DWR stated that Northern California rainfall this winter was about twice the historical average. Lake Davis is part of DWR’s Upper Feather River Project within Plumas National Forest. The Lake Davis reservoir provides recreational camping, fishing, picnicking and boating.