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The Unfinished Emergency Spillway
Should Never Be Used Again

The Trillion-Gallon Question

What Climate Change Means for California in the Future

Letter to FERC on Impact of High Releases Feb 2022

Protest to FERC relating to issuance of unconditional
one Year Licenses (May 2022) 

The FRRA submitted a protest with FERC protesting the issue of a long-term license to the DWR to

operate the Oroville Dam before a supplementary environmental Impact Review (EIR) is completed and the 2006 Settlement Agreement is renegotiated, particularly with respect to recreation.

FERC Letter

In a letter dated September 21st, 2021,  FERC commented on the dangers associated with the spillway gates and the need for retrofit asking for a plan to complete this with a schedule.  This is long overdue.  Anyone with direct knowledge of the condition of the gates is encourage to contact the FRRA at

FRRA Position on Relicensing

FRRA Position on Relicensing

Study of the Impact of High Releases From Oroville Dam

FERC Project No. 2100 Oroville Facilities

September 2021

Evidence submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by the Feather River Recovery Alliance in opposition to the relicensing of Oroville Dam without a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement. 

Community "Safety" Following Comprehensive Study

May 10, 2021

A copy for a report by Dr. Rune Storesund, Executive Director of the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management at UC Berkeley. The report gives indpendent feedback on the CNA and the extent to which it is likely to contribute to the safety of the downstream communities.

FERC Denies Intervention & FRRA Appeals

FRRA Motion To Intervene Documentation

February 5, 2020

Detail report about the FRRA intervention of DWR's application.

FRRA filed a motion to intervene in DWR's application for operating the Oroville Dam

November 21, 2019

On November 19, 2019 the FRRA filed a motion to intervene with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in the pending application by the California Department of Water Resources for relicensing their operation of the Oroville Dam. The original license expired in 2007. The motion is a result of chronic safety concerns regarding the operation and maintenance of the Oroville Dam and fulfills the request of the petition to Hold DWR Accountable signed by 6,469 local residents that was submitted to FERC in 2018.


Although steps have been taken to identify physical concerns at the Oroville Dam through the current Comprehensive Needs Assessment (CNA) being conducted by DWR, the Forensic Report on the 2017 Spillway Failure identified other causes that are not being addressed (operations and management). The lake level continues to be managed for water supply rather than for safety, despite ongoing issues identified by the CNA team that have not yet been fixed.


The intervention therefore requests that FERC reopen the licensing process that was conducted over a decade ago and prior to the community becoming aware of safety concerns at the Oroville Dam. It also requests that the CAN process be broadened to include all aspects of the dam such as operations and reservoir management and that an interim reservoir management plan be used until the CNA is complete and all safety recommendations have been implemented. To cover the cost of any future damages caused by the negligence of DWR, it is requested that a surcharge be added to all water deliveries and that DWR provide funds for required DWR/Community associations that are required by FERC so that proper staff and professional advisors can be utilized. And lastly, that the minutes of all meetings between DWR and the California State Water Contractors regarding maintenance and reservoir management are published.   

Oroville residents challenge DWR; talks begin on border sewage problem

April 8, 2019

Oroville residents submit petition to

‘hold DWR accountable’ to federal agency

April 5th, 2019

OROVILLE — A petition to “hold the DWR accountable” was hand-delivered this week by Butte County Supervisor Bill Connelly to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, D.C.


The Feather River Recovery Alliance is the name of the nonprofit run by local volunteers who organized the petition. It evolved from the local advocacy group Oroville Strong which was affiliated with the Oroville Chamber of Commerce.

Specifically, the Feather River Recovery Alliance is asking FERC to not reissue a license to the state Department of Water Resources to operate the Oroville Dam until terms of the agreement are renegotiated, including a new recreation plan. The group says it received 6,469 local signatures on the petition.

Members of the alliance huddled under umbrellas Friday for a press conference outside of the Feather River Fish Hatchery. The group began collecting signatures for its petition a little over a year ago.

At the press conference, Connelly said he was in Washington, D.C. this week as part of a lobbying effort related to the Camp Fire and the Oroville Dam crisis. With regard to the Feather River Recovery Alliance petition, he said he is mostly interested in seeing locals get the recreation they deserve.

“It’s been a very negative impact on our community that they (DWR) have never developed the recreation they promised,” he said. “They’ve argued to the FERC that if we don’t build it, they won’t come. Therefore they aren’t coming, so we won’t build it.”

Richard Harriman, a local attorney, said the cost of the needed preventative maintenance and repairs would have been miniscule compared to the $1.1 billion cost to repair the dam.


“I don’t like the fact that DWR and the State Water Contractors have bogarted all of the people in the county of Butte and the city of Oroville and not honored their commitment they made back in 1966 to take care of this community, to provide recreation, to provide some sort of compensation for having taken away the water … and given nothing back,” Harriman said.


Genoa Widener, who handles outreach for the alliance, said the most important thing to her going forward was independent oversight of

the dam.

“It’s great the spillway has been rebuilt. It’s bigger and better than ever, according to DWR,” Widener said. “But all the problems that were present before 2017 with the spillway are still present with the rest of the dam: aging materials, aging technology, lack of maintenance and the human factor, which were all covered by the independent forensic team’s report of why the spillway collapsed.”

A little over two years ago, on Feb. 12, 2017, about 188,000 downstream residents were given a one-hour evacuation order out of fear the damaged spillway could fail. Though the worst fears never materialized, and the spillway has been entirely reconstructed with additional oversight now in place, Robert Bateman said that community trust in the department remains low.


“At this point it’s very difficult for people living below the dam to trust the DWR,” said Bateman, one of the group’s organizers.


A DWR spokesperson declined to comment on the petition on Friday.

Connelly makes pitch to federal regulators asking

conditions on DWR license renewal

April 5th, 2019


OROVILLE, Calif. — Butte County supervisor Bill Connelly spoke with representatives with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) during his trip to Washington D.C. this week. 

Connelly, a harsh critic of the Department of Water Resources and its handling of the spillway crisis two years ago, presented 6,469 signatures to FERC requesting the DWR's license renewal be denied until better safety measures are in place and recreational upgrades are funded to make Lake Oroville a more desirable tourist destination. 

"Recreation has been shorted historically and we want them to require a new license for negotiation," said Connelly, who added that the FERC officials were "very quiet" and "very stoic" during his presentation. 


The Feather River Recovery Alliance provided the signatures requesting that before a license is issued there is an independent assessment of the safety of the entire dam and its complex.

"We have a business in Oroville and we have a home in Oroville," said Richard Thompson of the alliance. "I want more than to worry about whether my home is going to be washed away or whether my business is going to be washed away."


The DWR has been operating on a year-to-year interim license for 15 years. 

A long-term license requires the DWR to receive FERC's authorization. 

"They have the hammer," said Connelly. "But they don't wield it very often."

April 2nd, 2019

As a long-time resident of, a business owner in, Butte County, a signer of the attached petition, and on behalf of the Feather River Recovery Alliance, I am submitting to FERC this petition 'To Hold the DWR Accountable' signed by six thousand, four hundred and sixty-four residents of the communities downstream of the Oroville Dam. These signatures were collected by volunteers. This Petition was sponsored by the Feather River Recovery Alliance a registered non-profit made up of local business people and concerned citizens. I am also submitting two letters, which include a notice of intent to Protest and to Intervene in the licensing process. This reflects the wishes of those who signed the petition. The first letter deals with recreation. It sets out the dismal record of the DWR and the State Water Contractors which shows their bad faith in failing to meet their obligations under previous agreements relating to the licensing of the Dam. The local community was shortchanged, and this petition should be addressed before a new license is considered and issued. The Oroville Recreation Advisory Committee (ORAC) must be restructured and given additional power in the local, State, and FERC regulatory process. The second letter, prepared by the Feather River Recovery Alliance (FRRA), deals with minimizing the catastrophic flood risks to the downstream communities. The FRRA is supported by local business owners concerned about risk management associated with the Dam. There exists a lack of confidence in the operational management of the Dam. Since the 2017 spillway incident, additional recruitment and investments in manufacturing and other economic development have stopped. The dam's safety record casts a shadow over the development of three counties. This will persist until there is confidence in the safety of the facility. Confidence in the management and regulation of the dam was severely reduced after the 1998 incident, after which there were no changes to reduce risk. The 2017 incident inevitably followed. Poor construction, poor inspection protocol, poor implementation, and poor operational management were primary causes of both these incidents. The risk of disaster remains high. There was no corrective action nor any individual accountability after the 1998 incident, which indicates gross negligence. Equally, no one and no organization was held accountable for the 2017 incident. If there were improvements in control of risks or transparency, they are not apparent. There is little evidence of follow through. The dam continues to be managed without proper regard for risk and without genuine independent inspection or oversight. These facts are well known and understood by many experts in the dam safety profession. See the attached comments on the DWR Comprehensive Needs Assessment. The DWR, California Legislature, and the Executive branch are clearly aware of the need for systemic change. It is not surprising that so many signed the petition: nor that we are giving notice of intent to intervene in the relicensing process. The community deserves safety and fairness. 

Very truly yours, 
William F. Connelly 

Mr. Connelly Goes to Washington

DWR CNA & Technical Reviews

The independent forensic team prepared a report on the spillway which included recommendations for action by the DWR. The DWR responded to this by setting up a Comprehensive Needs Assessment program (CNA). This program involved an independent board of consultants reviewing the DWR proposals following which the Ad Hoc committee formed by the local elective representatives would comment.

Comprehensive Needs Assessment Program

About the CNA

Board of Consultants

Report of Ad Hoc Committee

Letter from FRRA to Mercury Register

Articles Archive

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