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Daguerre Dam Hydropower Project Proposal Delayed; Relicensing Heats Up for Existing Hydropower Projects in the Yuba Watershed

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A private company from Canada is attempting to get a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for constructing a hydropower facility at Daguerre Point Dam, but in response to multiple requests, FERC has granted a 60-day delay in the deadline for submission of comments on the Preliminary Application Document.  Only state or federal agencies can be granted such a delay, but SYRCL’s strong showing at the public scoping meeting in October and close coordination with resource agencies is a contributing factor.  SYRCL is preparing extensive comments on the proposed project for submission by the new deadline of February 19, 2013. 

Requests for delay by the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State Water Resources Control Board noted that the complexity of environmental issues concerning the proposed project and the use of a new technology warrant additional time for preparing comments. Forthcoming comments by these agencies, and SYRCL, will formally request a variety of studies necessary for evaluating the project’s environmental risk and mitigation requirements.  FERC will determine which studies are to be completed by the project proponent before submission of a license application.  Now, a final license application is not expected before 2014. Learn more by seeing FERC’s issuance of a delay or SYRCL’s page on the Daguerre Dam Hydropower Project Proposal.

North Ladder at Daguerre Point Dam clogged with debris, Dec. 4, 2012

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 February 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.  One problem with the dam is that debris from high flow events, such as occurred last Sunday, can block passage through the substandard fish ladders.  SYRCL advocates in multiple forums for the remedy of all problems for threatened species at Daguerre Point Dam.

Meanwhile, existing hydropower projects in the Yuba Watershed are seeking new licenses from FERC to continue operations for the next 30 years, and SYRCL continues to be at the table advocating for river restoration.  In alliance with members of the Foothill Water Network (FWN), SYRCL has been negotiating with PG&E and Nevada Irrigation District (NID) for substantial enhancements to flow and habitat in the South Yuba River, Middle Yuba River and Canyon Creek. Current licenses for the Yuba-Bear and Drum-Spaulding projects expire in April 2013, but a variety of environmental concerns will delay the resolution of new license terms. SYRCL and FWN work with many resource agencies including the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Fish and Game to ensure that the new licenses will restore streams in the Yuba River watershed, while protecting water supply and adequate in-stream flows in the creeks of Placer County, including those that have become important habitat for salmon and steelhead.

The Yuba County Water Agency’s hydropower project needs a new license from FERC in 2016.  Just this week, YCWA has begun to issue results from 44 studies required to evaluate the effects of the projects on various resources, including anadromous fish populations, amphibians, water temperature and riparian vegetation.  SYRCL’s River Scientist is leading the efforts for conservation groups in interpreting these studies for the subsequent development of proposed mitigation and enhancement measures.

To learn more about the FERC process, and related efforts to protect and restore rivers and creeks in our watershed, go to the Dam Licensing webpage.  SYRCL thanks all its members, supporters and partners, including the California Hydropower Reform Coalition, for enabling us to excel in this important work of river restoration.

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