More than 20 Yuba River lovers from all over Northern California drove through tornado-laden skies to Marysville on Monday to make their views heard about a proposed hydroelectric power project at Daguerre Pont Dam.
The Yuba River above and below Daguerre, is one of the last strongholds for wild salmon and steelhead runs in the whole of California’s Central Valley. As recently as March 2012, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a Biological Opinion which found that the current dam at Daguerre Point likely jeopardizes the survival of three species of endangered fish: spring-run Chinook salmon, steelhead trout, and green sturgeon.
Yet Archon Energy, a privately-owned Canadian company based in Florida, is proposing a hydroelectric facility at the dam, potentially adding to impacts on endangered fish. According to their initial filing to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the project would “divert a significant portion of the river flows” through eight 15-foot diameter turbines to produce up to three megawatts of electricity.
At the meeting in the Yuba County Supervisors Chamber, Mr. Kevin Ablett from Archon Energy presented their plans and schedule, and was eager to show that they had listened to comments and concerns already submitted by state and federal agencies, SYRCL, and others. He said that the Archimedes screw turbines were “fish-friendly” and that they are adapting their plans to become more environmentally conscious.
Nonetheless, the majority of speakers from the floor urged Archon to rethink their plans to site a hydro-project at Daguerre. Caleb Dardick, SYRCL’s Executive Director made it clear that SYRCL would be vigilant in protecting the unique ecosystem and species in the Lower Yuba. Gary Reedy, Science Director for SYRCL, said “this project proposes to exploit hydropower from a 100 year old dam at a time when the dam and other problems on the river are finally subject to serious plans for restoration. To have such a project constrain the best possible outcome of our long-spent and collaborative efforts to restore the river is unacceptable.”
Two biologists from the National Marine Fisheries Service listed some of their agency’s many concerns, including the fact that green sturgeon, at greater than six feet in length are not likely to pass downstream through the turbines without harm. Many other Yuba supporters voiced concerns for impacts to endangered species, as well as public safety and recreational access at the dam site.
The large public turn-out impressed Mr. Ken Hogan, Fisheries Biologist from FERC who had flown out from Washington DC especially for the meeting. He confirmed that this was a controversial project, and could require new studies and an extended schedule for developing a formal license application. Formal comments on the preliminary application are due on December 22, and SYRCL will be leading the development of comments on behalf of supporters and an alliance of more than seven other conservation groups.
After the meeting, Caleb Dardick said, “We can assure all our members and the vast community of river lovers that we will be tracking this project every step of the way and taking action when we need to. We’d like to thank everyone who attended the meeting for showing the developers and FERC how strongly our community feels about protecting Yuba salmon.”
For more information on the proposed project