The State Water Resources Control Board has issued a draft Water Quality Certification for the relicensing of the DeSabla – Centerville hydroelectric project on Butte Creek. The draft Certification requires Pacific Gas & Electric Company to construct a water temperature reduction device at a project reservoir, and then to stop diverting water from the Lower Centerville Reach of Butte Creek for five years. After five years, PG&E will have to decommission Centerville Powerhouse unless it can prove that more water in a canal is better for fish than keeping the water in Butte Creek.
The draft Certification’s requirements, once final, will require measures that CSPA has advocated since 2003. CSPA sued under the Endangered Species Act after a massive pre-spawn die-off of salmon in Butte Creek in 2003. Following an adverse procedural ruling in 2006, CSPA engaged in the relicensing of the DeSabla – Centerville Project. In relicensing, CSPA advocated that summer diversions at Lower Centerville Diversion Dam not be allowed. CSPA also advocated that NGO’s participate in discussing and recommending project operations; the draft Certification provides that CSPA and three other conservation groups shall become part of the operations group.
PG&E, working with several resource agencies, has substantially improved management of the project since 2003. However, PG&E has opposed “full flow” in Butte Creek during the summer. This is in spite of the fact that Centerville Powerhouse has been offline for several years, and will soon require a rebuild that PG&E has estimated will cost $38 million. Some resource agency personnel have also opposed full flow. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission accepted PG&E’s approach; however, FERC must adopt the State Board’s final Certification, once final, without modification. Therefore CSPA expects PG&E to oppose the draft Certification over the next year, just as CSPA, Friends of Butte Creek, and other conservation allies expect to support the Board’s courageous stand in the draft Certification.
For the past five years, CSPA and allied conservation groups have been stymied in efforts to require study of fish passage in important hydropower relicensings in California. Licensees on the Merced and Tuolumne rivers have argued that their own agricultural irrigation diversions dams downstream of the huge dams that store water for these diversions were the barriers to fish passage, not the huge storage dams themselves. The storage dams have hydroelectric projects on them that are subject to hydropower licensing by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), but so far FERC has not looked at passage because of the smaller dams just downstream.
In a potential breakthrough, FERC issued an Order on December 18, 2012 finding that La Grange Dam on the Tuolumne River and the small La Grange Powerhouse just next to it were jurisdictional to FERC. FERC ordered owner Turlock Irrigation District to license “the La Grange Project” under the Federal Power Act. A licensing process for La Grange could require Turlock and Modesto Irrigation Districts to study and possibly implement fish passage past La Grange and Don Pedro dams.
FERC’s December Order examined four issues: navigability of the Tuolumne River, occupation of federal lands by the La Grange Project, use of the La Grange Project to make flow releases into the lower Tuolumne River as required in the license for the Don Pedro Project (2.6 miles upstream of La Grange), and whether La Grange is used to regulate releases from Don Pedro Powerhouse. The Order found that the Tuolumne River is navigable and that the La Grange Project occupies federal land. The Order deferred answering whether use of La Grange to release instream flows required for Don Pedro meant that La Grange should be licensed as part of “a complete unit of development,” i.e. as part of the Don Pedro Project. The Order also found that La Grange did not re-regulate releases from Don Pedro (re-regulate means to even out the river flows downstream after flows through a powerhouse fluctuate).
Conservation Groups think FERC got the right answer, but didn’t get the all the pieces right. We were concerned that FERC might separate La Grange from Don Pedro, and we knew that the Districts would challenge FERC on navigability and occupancy of federal lands. This could delay study of fish passage, or, in the worst case, return FERC to the situation where it would again reject study of fish passage if the La Grange Project on a stand-alone basis were found to be not subject to FERC’s jurisdiction. Thus, on January 18, 2013, CSPA and allied groups filed a “request for rehearing” with FERC. The filing provides a technical analysis of how the facilities at La Grange re-regulate hydropower releases from Don Pedro, and makes a legal argument for licensing La Grange as part of the complete unit of development of the Don Pedro Project.
CSPA and fellow members of the Foothills Water Network coalition have pressed the Forest Service to protect cold water fisheries in the Middle and South Yuba rivers. In a filing with the Forest Service for the Yuba-Bear hydroelectric project and a separate filing for the connected Drum-Spaulding Project, the Network proposed alternative conditions to those required by the Forest Service. The flows required by the Forest Service for the Middle and South Yuba rivers would not keep the rivers cold enough in the summer.
The Forest Service filed its preliminary conditions on July 31, 2012. On August 24, the Forest Service revised its conditions, weakening its requirements for the South Yuba River. The Forest Service further backed away from cold water protection after separate meetings with Drum-Spaulding licensee PG&E, to which Network NGO’s were not invited.
The Network’s alternative conditions submitted to the Forest Service are identical to conditions previously proposed by both the Network and the California Department of Fish and Game in filings at the end of July.
CSPA and fellow members of the Foothills Water Network coalition have called for more summer flow in the South Yuba and Middle Yuba rivers to support cold water fisheries. In Comments and Recommendations for the coordinated relicensing of the Yuba-Bear and Drum-Spaulding hydroelectric projects, the Network proposes measures for real-time water temperature management in the major rivers affected by these two projects. These measures are supported and also proposed by the Department of Fish and Game. At present, they are opposed by Pacific Gas & Electric Company, operator of the Drum-Spaulding Project.
CSPA and the Network filed comments and recommendations with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on July 31, and at the same time filed motions to intervene in each proceeding. The projects are operated by Nevada Irrigation District (NID) and by PG&E. In addition to generating power, the projects supply water to NID and Placer County Water Agency customers. Continue reading
A just-completed study that included two seasons of field sampling on the North Fork Feather River and two years of analysis shows no ecosystem-level effect of limited summer whitewater boating releases on aquatic macroinvertebrates (insects).
The study was designed by top experts on aquatic insects. It was commissioned by the Rock Creek – Cresta Ecological Resources Committee, which oversees implementation of the license for the Rock Creek – Cresta hydroelectric project on the North Fork Feather. The license was issued to Pacific Gas & Electric Company in 2001 by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. PG&E funded the study.
The study provides scientific answers to concerns that arose among a segment of the angling community about the effects of summer whitewater flow releases on aquatic macroinvertebrates. While this issue generated a level of emotion that divided many anglers, led to the formation of new organizations, and saw some anglers and their representatives vilifying whitewater boating and boaters, this definitive study provides scientific answers to those issues that concerned all of us.
As a result of the study, the Ecological Resources Committee, including CSPA, is considering a proposal to maintain summer whitewater boating releases on the NF Feather below Rock Creek Dam at about the same limited level that has been in effect since 2007.
RCC_Rec Rel Flow Macro Report_2007 Figures
RCC_Rec Rel Flow Macro Report_2008 Figures
RCC_Rec Rel Flow Macro Report_2007 Tables
RCC_Rec Rel Flow Macro Report_2008 Tables
It is time to write that letter to the California State Fish and Game Commission. Why is this important? If we don’t turn back this cynical and spiteful effort by San Joaquin Valley agribusiness, we stand to lose an outstanding striped bass fishery and its Delta protecting constituency. Furthermore, leading fisheries biologists believe that the proposed regulation changes will increase the threat to listed species in the Delta.
The California Department of Fish and Game is presenting a proposal to the Commission to dramatically increase the take of striped bass in order to reduce the striped bass population. This action is the result of a legal settlement between the Department of Fish and Game and a coalition of agricultural interests who sued with allegations that the striped bass were impacting the population of endangered species in the Delta, including salmon and delta smelt.
The settlement requires the Department to present the regulation change for the Commission to approve or reject. If the Commission rejects the recommendation, the striped bass regulations will remain unchanged. Please write a reasoned and considerate letter to the Fish and Game Commission and urge them to reject the proposed regulation changes. Continue reading
The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA), North Coast River Alliance, Friends of the River and the Winneman Wintu Tribe have sued the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), in Federal Court, over interim Central Valley Project water delivery contracts. Specifically, the lawsuit challenges the Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for eleven interim renewal contracts for water deliveries to the San Luis Unit, which includes Westlands Water District. Continue reading
The East Bay Municipal Utilities District has thrown in the towel and will no longer pursue a plan to raise Pardee Dam. Pardee Dam, which backs up the Mokelumne River in Amador and Calaveras counties, creates Pardee Reservoir, EBMUD’s largest storage reservoir. EBMUD’s decision removes a threat to drown another two or more miles of the Mokelumne. The decision also prevents another increment of diversion that would have reduced inflow to the Sacramento – San Joaquin Delta.
The decision follows a successful lawsuit filed in 2009 by CSPA, Friends of the River and the Foothill Conservancy. A favorable ruling on the case in April, 2011 compelled EBMUD to redo the Environmental Impact Report for its Water Supply Management Plan. The new EIR, released on December 6, has taken the controversial dam raise off the table until at least 2040. Continue reading
Statement of Chris Shutes, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, on the reality of standard reopeners in hydropower licenses
Before the Study Dispute Panel, Yuba River Development Project (P-2246,Yuba County Water Agency) relicensing proceeding before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Sacramento, California, November 30, 2011. Study Dispute between National Marine Fisheries Service and FERC Office of Energy Projects
Mr. Mitchnick [senior FERC staff], I believe, said that the Commission seeks “to keep the door open.” He suggests that the standard reopener is the means to do that. However, a reopener is a completely discretionary action that FERC has almost never exercised in order to improve conditions for fish, at least in California. We have examples where there have been extreme situations where parties, including CSPA, have requested reopeners that have been denied by the Commission.
Mr. Lilly [attorney for YCWA] expressed concern about a defined trigger absent details. The problem is that there is either a defined trigger or a purely discretionary threshold that never seems to be met. Part of that discretion involves concern over procedural and regulatory requirements, such as the ESA and 401 processes, that go along with starting from scratch. The overwhelming choice by FERC to date has been to simply push the question off till relicensing.
The reopener is a procedural category that ends up being a substitute for action. We don’t think that pushing out study to inform reintroduction of anadromous fish for 30 to 50 years is consistent with the overall Federal Power Act mandate that license decisions must be in the public interest.
On 9 November 2011, the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Friends of the River, Crab Boat Owners Association and retired USFWS biologist Felix Smith sued the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority over their failure to secure Clean Water Act permits for the discharge of massive quantities of toxic wastes to the San Joaquin River. Continue reading
CSPA and a coalition of fishing and conservation groups have filed extensive comments on the Proposed Study Plan for the relicensing of the Don Pedro hydroelectric project on the Tuolumne River. The comments by “Conservation Groups” call for modification of many studies proposed by Turlock Irrigation District and Modesto Irrigation District. The comments also propose the addition of studies relating to downstream fisheries, and the addition of studies to examine fish passage past Don Pedro Dam and Reservoir and the Districts’ La Grange Dam just downstream. Continue reading
On 4 October 2011, CSPA filed a lawsuit against Specialized Parts Planet, Inc. and five auto dismantling and recycling facilities it operates in Rancho Cordova California for substantive and procedural violations of the federal Clean Water Act and the state’s General Industrial Stormwater Permit. Each of the facilities discharges pollutants into the City of Rancho Cordova’s stormwater drainage system, which flows into an unnamed tributary of Morrison thence to Morrison Creek and ultimately the Sacramento River and Delta. Continue reading
The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) has joined more than 200 other environmental, environmental justice, tribal and commercial and recreational fishing organization in submitting extensive comments on the Delta Stewardship Council’s Fifth Draft Delta Plan. The coalition letter notes that the Delta Plan is seriously deficient, does little more than maintain the status quo, will not achieve the “co-equal goals of the enabling legislation, will cost the state billions of dollars more than we need to spend and does nothing to balance public trust values – one of the foundations of state water management policy. CSPA Executive Director Bill Jennings characterized the plan as “little more than CalFed in another costume,” adding “CalFed’s ‘getting better together’ is now the ‘co-equal goals’ but the Council can’t bring itself to acknowledge that, in an over-appropriated watershed where protection of public trust resources require more water, someone will have to make do with less water.” Press Release follows. Continue reading
The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) has released an evaluation of the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board’s (Regional Board) compliance with state and federal regulations governing the issuance of permits controlling discharges of municipal and industrial wastes to surface waters. The report finds that the Regional Board has significantly modified its procedures for developing permits and is relying upon underground regulations that have not been publically circulated and adopted pursuant to legal rule making requirements. Consequently, recent waste discharge permits issued by the Regional Board fail to comply with lawfully adopted regulations and are significantly less protective of water quality and critical beneficial uses of water, including fisheries and public health.
On 21 September 2011, CSPA and the California Water Impact Network, AquAlliance, Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman’s Associations, Planning and Conservation League and the Institute for Fisheries Research submitted joint comments on the Draft Program Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report on the San Joaquin River Restoration Program. Continue reading
On 21 September 2011, CSPA settled a lawsuit against Trilore Technologies, Inc., for violations of the federal Clean Water Act. The 2-acre aluminum foundry facility is used to receive, store, manufacture and transport various aluminum based products and discharges pollutants to Lone Tree Creek, which drains to the San Joaquin River and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Continue reading
On 21 September 2011, CSPA sent Notices of Intent to Sue three auto dismantling and recycling facilities in Rancho Cordova California for violations of the federal Clean Water Act. All of the facilities are owned and operated by Specialized Parts Planet, Inc. The notice letters allege that each of the facilities is illegally discharging polluted stormwater in violation of the substantive and procedural requirements of the General Industrial Stormwater Permit into an unnamed tributary of Morrison thence to Morrison Creek and ultimately the Sacramento River and Delta. Continue reading
On 16 September 2011, CSPA sent a Notice of Intent to Sue to M & M Recycling (dba, Specialized German Recycling) for violations of the federal Clean Water Act. The notice letter alleges that the 1-acre waste dismantling and recycling facility is illegally discharging polluted stormwater in violation of the substantive and procedural requirements of the General Industrial Stormwater Permit into an unnamed tributary of Morrison Creek, which flows into the Sacramento River and thence the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Continue reading
CSPA and a coalition of environmental organizations, including Sierra Club, Battle Creek Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Central Coast Forest Watch, Ebbetts Pass Forest Watch, Klamath Forest Alliance, Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation, Environment Now, Pelican Network, Foothills Conservancy, Cascade Action Now, Forests Forever and Lassen Forest Preservation Group have requested that the State Water Resources Control Board pull a controversial proposal to weaken requirements in the timber harvesting waiver from the Board’s September 19,20 meeting agenda. Runoff from timber harvesting activities has great potential to harm fisheries and water quality. Continue reading
In June 2011, the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) adopted another extension of the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program Waiver and an ILRP Program Environmental Impact Report. In July, CSPA and C-WIN appealed adoption of the Regional Board order to the State Water Resources Control Board. A coalition of agricultural interests also appealed the order. The State Board accepted the petitions, ordered preparation of the evidentiary record and offered appellants the opportunity to respond to the opposing petitions. CSPA and C-WIN responded to the agricultural coalition appeal on 14 September. The State Board will consider the matter over the coming months. Continue reading