California’s Lake Oroville sees historic low water levels

OROVILLE, Calif. (KCRA/CNN) – In a year already plagued by the pandemic and wildfires, Californians are also entangled with the crippling effects of a drought.

For example, the drought has lowered Lake Oroville’s level to its lowest level in nearly 44 years, impacting recreation and wildlife.

A shuttle boat ferries people back and forth across Lake Oroville. Now, it’s the only way to get to the houseboats on the water.

California State Parks Public Safety Chief Aaron Wright explained, “There is no launch ramps open and we haven’t for a few weeks now.”

California’s drought is drying up the lake, impacting all those who use and rely on it, yet again.

“Every year there seems to be a disaster and issues, last year we had COVID, and that lost access,” Wright said.

And who could forget the Oroville Dam spillway crisis that threatened hundreds of thousands of homes in 2017. Heavy flooding damaged the spillway. But today, it’s a very different picture. The entire area, once covered with water, is now sun-baked, cracked and desperately dry.

Wright said, “It’s just sad, it’s hard for the communities.”

Dozens of houseboats sit empty on stacks of wood nearby.

Mark Russell drove to Butte County all the way from Fairfield to see the dam with his family. He remembers a very different Lake Oroville ten years ago.

He said, “The water was actually all the way in the parking lot and I had to go on my knees to get to the boat ramp.”

And the low lake levels are also affecting the wildlife. State park reps tell KCRA animals, like deer, are having to travel much further down from the shelter of the treeline to get to their drinking water, which makes them more vulnerable to predators.

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