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.