Hydropower Projects Step Toward New Federal Licenses Under Scrutiny by SYRCL and Conservation Interests
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Earlier this year, NID and PG&E filed applications with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to receive a license to operate a complex system of dams and diversions in the upper watersheds of the Middle Yuba, South Yuba and Bear River for the next 50 years. For the last several months SYRCL and a coalition of conservation groups coordinated as the Foothills Water Network have been working tirelessly to influence the new license terms in a way that protects sensitive aquatic life and supports habitat restoration. Already we know that conditions in the effected rivers will improve as a result of greater instream flows, more gradual flow fluctuations, and the reconstruction of natural spring flow patterns that support native species such as yellow-legged frogs. Yet to be determined is whether or not NID and PG&E will be providing flows sufficient to support the reintroduction of salmon and steelhead to the Middle and South Yuba Rivers.
Meanwhile, the Yuba County Water Agency is three years later in the relicensing process and has just filed with FERC plans for what it will study to evaluate the effects of it’s projects on natural resources and develop new license terms. SYRCL’s River Scientist worked extensively with both YCWA and resource agencies to influence these plans for obtaining information useful to protection and restoration. Forty two completed study plans will be implemented in 2012. Unfortunately, YCWA has so far remained free of any requirement to evaluate the need for fish passage at Englebright Dam because that dam is owned by the Army Corps of Engineers. Along with conservation allies, SYRCL continues to advocate for fish passage studies at Englebright Dam, and will use its expert science and policy position to promote the restoration of salmon and steelhead througout as much of the wateshed as possible.