The Yuba River watershed includes five hydropower projects that impound water behind dams, alter natural streamflows, and divert water to unnatural streamcourses. Each of the hydropower projects is licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The three largest projects are currently in the process of relicensing. Operating in the upper portions of the Middle Yuba and South Yuba sub-basins, the interwoven projects of the Nevada Irrigation District (NID) and PG&E are undergoing relicensing in conjunction. The old license for these proejcts expired in 2013 and they are operating on annual license extensions until a new license is implemented. The project owned by the Yuba County Water Agency (YCWA) alters flow in the North Yuba, lower Middle Yuba, and Lower Yuba sub-basins. The old FERC license for YCWA expired in 2016.
Before issuing a new license, FERC must thoroughly evaluate the effect of projects on ecological resources. New licenses are expected to last for a duration of 30, 40 or 50 years. All terms of the new licenses, including minimum streamflows and mitigation projects, are subject to results from extensive studies of project effects, and the negotiations of relicensing participants that include many resource agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). NGOs are organized by the Foothills Water Network. For more information about specific projects, including access to study plans and technical memos resulting from the studies, visit these official websites:
- Yuba-Bear Project (NID) Relicensing (includes calendar of meetings and filing dates for both NID and PG&E relicensing process)
- Drum-Spaulding Project (PG&E) Relicensing
- Yuba River Development Project (YCWA) Project Relicensing
This map was created by SYRCL with funding by the Hydropower Reform Coalition to illustrate the “gross average volume” effect of the hydropower projects on altering the hydrology within the Yuba River watershed. The map does not depict hydrologic modifications associated with variable operations of storage, peaking power, and spill events. Such modifications to streams include reduced instream flows, rapid flow fluctuations and altered temperatures.
The National Marine Fisheries Service has published a map of the Yuba River watershed showing hydropower facilities licensed by FERC and historic habitat for salmon and steelhead trout upstream of these dams. To view this map as a pdf, download (1.5 MB) the NMFS Watershed Profile.