CSPA and American Whitewater (AW) filed joint comments March 26, 2015 on the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Water Quality Certification for relicensing of the Upper North Fork Feather Project. The State Water Resources Control Board issued the DEIR in November, 2014, about ten years after the relicensing process concluded.
The comments identify water temperature in the NF Feather River as the “the single greatest aquatic issue still facing the North Fork Feather River from Lake Almanor to Oroville Reservoir.” PG&E’s hydroelectric project warms the temperatures in the river by routing water through Butt Valley Reservoir, to the south and east of Lake Almanor, before the water is funneled back to the river at Belden Forebay. CSPA and AW recommend releasing more water directly from Lake Almanor into the river during the summer in order to keep water temperatures down in July and August, avoiding the bypass that causes too much warming. The trout fishery in the NF Feather, though partly improved by an agreement reached in 2000, is still a shadow of its former greatness. A supporting economic analysis to the comments cites the potential value of a restored river fishery as being in the millions of dollars annually.
Many people in Plumas County are concerned that releasing more cold water into the river will reduce cold water habitat for fish in Lake Almanor. CSPA and AW share that concern, and oppose the “thermal curtain” approach highlighted in the DEIR. Instead, CSPA and AW propose improving dissolved oxygen Lake Almanor near its dam, where there is ample cold water but where most of the cold water has too little dissolved oxygen to support fish. CSPA and AW cite “oxygenation” facilities used in Camanche Reservoir by East Bay MUD as a proven and cost-effective technology for improving conditions in the lake. By making more of the cold water in Lake Almanor usable for fish, there can be sufficient water to restore the cold water conditions of the NF Feather and substantial improvements for the Lake Almanor trout fishery at the same time.
CSPA and AW call for the State Board to release additional technical data as soon as possible, and to recirculate or supplement the DEIR after correcting the document’s errors. In the meantime, CSPA and AW will engage multiple stakeholders to seek resolution of differences in approach to the problems of Lake Almanor and the North Fork Feather River.