A view of the Lake Oroville main spillway in Butte County, California. The spillway gates are designed with seals to minimize leakage around the edges of the gate. This modest leakage is beneficial with respect to reducing friction when the gates are operated. Photo taken June 6, 2019.
Kelly M. Grow / California Department of Water Resources,

SACRAMENTO – The Department of Water Resources (DWR) was notified today that the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) submitted DWR’s Oroville spillways reimbursement appeal to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

In March 2019, FEMA notified DWR that it does not consider some spillway reconstruction work to be eligible for reimbursement based on information DWR had previously submitted at the end of 2018. DWR has appealed this initial reimbursement determination and provided further information and updated cost estimates to support the department’s appeal. To date, FEMA has approved reimbursement of $337.4 million. For a copy of the appeal, contact DWR at erin.mellon@water.ca.gov.

In its appeal and cost submittals, DWR included updated reimbursement requests totaling an estimated $1.11 billion to cover the costs of the Oroville spillways emergency response and emergency recovery efforts. This updated estimate is based on actual costs through Dec. 31, 2018 and anticipated costs for ongoing and future work to finalize the repairs. Final costs won’t be known until all project work is complete. This overall cost estimate remains essentially unchanged from DWR’s last update on costs in October 2018. Specific projects and costs may have been shifted to other categories, as noted in the explanations below.

Spillways Response and Recovery Project Categories Estimated Cost
 Emergency Response $194 million
 Main Spillway Recovery $580 million
 Emergency Spillway Recovery $291 million
 Other Recovery Projects $43 million
 Total Current Estimate $1.108 billion
  • Emergency response activities includes erosion mitigation for both spillways during the incident, diversion pool sediment and debris removal, installation of temporary transmission lines, staff time, technical consultants and inter-agency support.
    • All work associated with removal of debris in the diversion pool has been moved to emergency response. Previous cost estimates included some debris removal in ‘other recovery’.
  • Main spillway recovery includes all work to remove and reconstruct the new main spillway, which includes all construction, engineering and technical consultant time, and all DWR staff and inter-agency support.
    • Some DWR staff and inter-agency costs were previously included in ‘other recovery’.
  • Emergency spillway recovery includes the construction of an underground concrete secant pile wall, a concrete splashpad (or apron), and a concrete buttress and cap to bolster the existing emergency spillway weir structure. This work includes all construction, engineering and technical consultant time, and all DWR staff and inter-agency support.
    • Some DWR staff and inter-agency costs were previously included in ‘other recovery’.
  • Other recovery projects include installation of permanent powerlines, building on-site access roads, improvements to DWR-owned public roads, and repairs to the Feather River Fish hatchery, Thermalito Diversion Dam, feather river spawning beds, Spillway Boat Ramp parking lot, Oroville Dam toe drain, and the Oroville Wildlife Area.

Since the Oroville Spillways Emergency Recovery Project is ongoing, DWR will continue to update invoices or estimates of work for construction to FEMA until the full project is completed. Reimbursement costs may change slightly based on final invoices at the completion of the project.

FEMA’s Public Assistance program reimburses applicants 75 percent of eligible costs associated with a federally declared disaster. The reimbursement determination from FEMA in March 2019 is based on its eligibility categories and policies. It is not a statement on the quality of the reconstruction work or whether the work was necessary. All costs not reimbursed by FEMA will be paid by beneficiaries of the State Water Project.