Many owners of hydroelectric projects use jurisdictional uncertainty to avoid improving conditions for fish. Operators of power projects that also deliver water for irrigation or drinking water deny responsibility for streamflows if they can peg a reach of stream to “water supply” instead of hydropower. Even if operators produce power while carrying out the primary goal of delivering water for agriculture or municipal use, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) often buys the excuse. For the past five years (yes, five years), CSPA has taken on this inequitable venue shopping in several hydroelectric project relicensings in California.
On September 23, 2013, CSPA and its partners in the Foothills Water Network filed comments in reply to Placer County Water Agency (PCWA) in the docket of PG&E’s Drum-Spaulding Project. PG&E wants to separate its project to facilitate future “transfer” of the part of the project that doesn’t make money generating power. PCWA doesn’t want the project sold to a third party that will raise the price of water to turn a buck. Fair enough. But neither PG&E nor PCWA nor Nevada Irrigation District (also dependent on PG&E’s facilities for water deliveries) wants to put enough water in Auburn Ravine to protect the salmon and steelhead that live there. Even though both NID and PCWA are dependent for water supply deliveries on the facilities that PG&E wants to separate for future “transfer.” It’s not fair and not right to ask for protection from FERC for water supply deliveries but then deny responsibility for mitigating the effects of delivering the water. And it’s wrong for FERC to enable it.