Despite opposition from the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) and other conservation organizations, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has granted a preliminary permit to Archon Energy of Canada to develop a 3-megawatt facility adjacent to Daguerre Point Dam on the lower Yuba River.
In a decision dated January 7, 2013, the preliminary permit gives Archon an exclusive option to develop a hydropower project and proceed to gather data and conduct studies for their formal license application. The preliminary permit is not an actual license to build the hydro plant, but simply permission from federal regulators for Archon to review and gather information for its formal license. Under the terms of the preliminary permit, Archon Energy has three years to submit its formal application for project to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
“Archon Energy’s proposed project conflicts with many ongoing collaborative efforts to improve the lower Yuba River fisheries,” said SYRCL Board President John Regan. “We remain concerned that FERC and Archon fail to fully understand the role of this dam, and any new facilities, in impacting populations of salmon, steelhead and sturgeon.”
SYRCL is preparing formal comments to be submitted in mid-February that will request that Archon conduct a variety of essential studies to determine the project’s potential impacts. 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.
According to Archon’s filings with FERC, the project would “divert a significant portion of the river flows from just upstream of the existing dam” through a series of turbines. 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.