New flow schedule for Cresta Reach of North Fork Feather River
Chris Shutes, FERC Projects Director
April 20, 2009 - The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved a new flow schedule for the Cresta reach of the North Fork Feather River. The flow schedule will be in effect for the next five years. The new schedule will increase base flows in May, June and July of Wet and Normal years, and in May and June of Dry years. The change will result in improved habitat and water temperature conditions for trout.
The new flow regime was designed largely to be more protective of Foothill Yellow-Legged Frogs, whose numbers in the Cresta reach have grown very low over the last several years. While some parties have attributed this decline to mid and late summer boating releases, the largest demonstrated impact to the frogs on the NF Feather came on the Poe reach in 2006, when spill conditions were followed an abrupt drop to low base flows. 40 frog egg masses were left high and dry in this drop, and thus perished. Higher base flows, such as those in the new flow schedule for Cresta, would have kept the river higher coming off of spill conditions, drying out fewer egg masses and improving chances of frog survival.
CSPA was instrumental in negotiating this new flow schedule, together with staff from the State Water Resources Control Board, Department of Fish and Game, Forest Service, American Whitewater, Plumas County and PG&E. The flow schedule meets the interest of many anglers, who have voiced the desire for flows on the Feather that mimic the natural hydrograph. Whitewater boating on Cresta will be limited to spring and early summer; this also meets the interest of boaters to restore some boating to Cresta, where boating had been cancelled in the last three years.
A great deal of self-defeating acrimony has been directed back and forth over the last ten years between members of the angling and boating communities. The interests of anglers and boaters coincide more often than not, especially in the face of water user intransigence and indifference to aquatic resources. The solution begins when all of us put rivers first. If we can’t resolve our differences and work together with people who want to put more water back in rivers, how can we expect to effectively oppose those whose great goal in life is to put every drop of river water in reservoirs, canals and pipes?
Cresta Flow Schedule, May through November
Wet and Normal Water Years
In May, flows shall increase to 800 cfs from May 1 through May 7 with an additional increase to 1200 cfs for 24 hours the first weekend in May from noon Saturday until noon Sunday. If May 1 is a Sunday the 1200 cfs flow shall take place starting May 7 with flows reduced to 600 cfs after noon on May 8. Flows will remain at 600 cfs until May 31st. Flows will be at 500 cfs for the month of June and 400 cfs for the month of July. Flows for the months of August through November shall be 325 cfs.
Dry Water years
In May, flows shall increase to 750 cfs from May 1 through May 7 with an additional increase to 1200 cfs for 24 hours the first weekend in May from noon Saturday until noon Sunday. If May 1 is a Sunday the 1200 cfs flow shall take place starting May 7 with flows reduced to 500 cfs after noon on May 8. Flows will remain at 500 cfs until May 31st. Flows will be at 400 cfs for the month of June. Flows from July through November will be 260 cfs.
Critically Dry Water Years
In April, a boating flow of 600 cfs shall be provided on the third weekend in April (from 8 a.m. Saturday morning until 5 p.m. Sunday evening). Flows shall remain at 110 cfs through April, then shall be raised to 140 from May through November. If water temperatures exceed a daily average of 20° C. over two consecutive days in any week, flows shall be raised to 200 cfs for the until a week where no such consecutive days occur.
PG&E, because of the configuration of its outlet works on Cresta Dam, over-releases water on the Cresta reach to be sure that it does not violate the condition of its FERC license.