Chris Shutes, CSPA’s FERC Projects Director and Water Rights Advocate, gave a presentation at the 36th Annual Salmonid Restoration Federation Conference recently held in Eureka, CA. The SRF Conference is the largest salmon restoration conference in California and brings together scientists, conservationists, engineers, students and tribal members. The theme of this year’s conference was The Art and Science of Watershed Restoration.
Chris’s presentation was entitled: Creating Regulatory Process from Scratch: Lessons from Money-Losing Power Projects on Butte Creek and Other Northern California Streams. It was included in a session of multiple presentations covering the topic of Adapting Aging Infrastructure to Sustain Listed Salmonids.
Chris described how some California hydropower projects have become uneconomic given their age and the changing energy markets. As an example, PG&E decided to sell or decommission its DeSabla-Centerville Project on Butte Creek in 2017, just as the process of relicensing the Project was almost complete. The Project’s canal system brings water from the West Branch Feather River to Butte Creek. The combined flow in the creek supports the only currently viable run of Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon.
While there is a clear process to relicense ongoing hydro projects that allows broad public participation, there is no set process to transfer or decommission hydro projects, and no clear avenues for public participation. The presentation discusses the efforts of stakeholders including resource agencies, environmental and fishing groups, local residents, water purveyors and hydropower developers to work together to advance various stakeholder goals, including the protection of salmon in Butte Creek.
Here is the complete presentation: Creating Regulatory Process CS SRF 041418