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Lake Oroville at 91% capacity, DWR increases water releases

Lake Oroville water releases: Can rivers handle more inflow?
Lake Oroville water releases: Can rivers handle more inflow? 02:18

OROVILLE -- The heavy snow melt has triggered more water releases from Lake Oroville this week. The first release through the Spillway in four years happened in March with 15,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) were released. 

The California Department of Water Resources upped this amount this week. On Wednesday, 18,000 cfs were released -- and 20,000 cfs on Thursday.

"It makes you feel a lot better when you see it full versus when you see it empty," said Kevin McCarthy who lives in Oroville. 

As of Thursday, Lake Oroville was at 91% capacity. This was the highest McCarthy has seen it since he moved nearby three years ago. 

"It just looks so much better," said McCarthy. "It is a great place to walk up here." 

So will rivers downstream be able to handle this extra flow? DWR said yes.

"The Feather flows into the Sacramento, the Sacramento flows into the Bay, and then the San Joaquin it's coming from the south," said UC Davis professor of land, air and water resources Greg Pasternack.

The DWR said despite the increase, the Sacramento River will remain at its normal conditions, so there is no concern for flooding.

"It can easily handle this amount of flow and probably a lot more," Pasternack told CBS 13. 

Lake Oroville is currently at around 878 feet. Full capacity is at 900 feet. The DWR expects it to be full this spring.

"I feel like a little kid on Christmas," said Carol Robinson who lives in Oroville. "It is just a beautiful day and all the rain that we have had. The lake is finally so full." 

The DWR will continue releasing water to make room for the snow melt. Since December 1, Lake Oroville's storage has increased more than 215 feet, and gained over 2.1-million-acre feet of water. 

The DWR's Hydrology Forecasting team works closely with the State Water Project (SWP) Operations team to monitor reservoir inflows and model impacts to the water system. The DWR said it will adjust releases as needed of Lake Oroville to prevent flooding impacts to the Feather River and downstream communities. 

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