A surprise application by a privately-owned Canadian company to build a new hydroelectric facility at Daguerre Point Dam on the lower Yuba River has elicited response from conservation groups and resource agencies.
“This project would jeopardize years of hard work by the public and resources agencies to restore the Yuba River’s wild Chinook salmon runs, which are among the best in the Central Valley, as well as other endangered fish species,” said John Regan, President of the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL), a Nevada City-based nonprofit dedicated to protecting the Yuba River. “It’s completely inconsistent with years of regional cooperation and progress on a huge array of issues affecting the Yuba. And worst of all, the proponents never bothered to contact local communities or agencies about their proposal.”
In a Preliminary Permit Application dated July 9, 2012 filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Archon Energy of Tampa, Florida is proposing a 3-megawatt hydroelectric facility adjacent to Daguerre Point Dam. According to the filing, the project would “divert a significant portion of the river flows from just upstream of the existing dam” through a series of turbines. According to the company’s website, Archon Energy is a privately-owned Canadian company. Formal responses, none favorable, have been filed with FERC by SYRCL, the Yuba County Water Agency, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the California Department of Fish and Game. SYRCL’s response was co-signed by three other conservation groups—California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, American Whitewater, and Foothill Conservancy.
SYRCL believes that the proposed project would conflict with a range of complex resource issues on the Yuba. In February 2012, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a Biological Opinion which found that Daguerre Point Dam likely jeopardizes the survival of three species of endangered fish. NMFS ordered the Army Corps of Engineers, which operates Daguerre, to improve fish passage for migrating salmon, steelhead trout, and sturgeon.
“This application flies in the face of current conservation science and river management” said Gary Reedy, SYRCL’s River Science Director. “Not only does it conflict with the Biological Opinion, it disregards the existence of species listed under the Endangered Species Act. The application suggests that diverting a majority of the river through turbines would have no effect on fish, and that there is no need for additional studies. In fact, a diverse group of stakeholders on the lower Yuba River has been engaged for years in planning studies of salmon habitat and impairments, without the complexities of this new project.”
“Archon has not accounted for their project’s potential negative impacts on existing fish passage at Daguerre or future efforts to improve fish passage, not to mention agricultural water diversions and other regional interests,” said Regan.
According to its Application, Archon envisions an expedited permitting process that would allow it to submit a formal project application to FERC (the Federal Agency which permits dams) by January 31, 2013.
The Application further states, “The Applicant does not propose to do any new studies and is not aware of any studies that should be conducted to provide critical information to determine the potential impacts, which should be determined before licensing.”
“This filing illustrates how uninformed these out-of-town proponents are about the Yuba River,” said Regan. “Local, state and federal resource agencies and a diverse group of stakeholders have been engaged in years of painstaking negotiation and collaboration to improve conditions in the lower Yuba. It’s mindboggling, frankly. SYRCL and our partners are going to fight this project tooth and nail from the outset. This is a low-benefit project that would cause more harm than good.”
The project would be located downstream of a 39-mile segment of the South Yuba River that was declared a California Wild & Scenic River in 1999. That designation prohibits the construction of new dams and related structures, but would not prevent Archon’s proposal.
Founded in 1983, the South Yuba River Citizens League is a community-based nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the Yuba River. With more 3,500 active members, volunteers, and supporters, SYRCL is one of the nation’s largest organizations dedicated to the protection of a single river.
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