Plumas County was one of the initiators of the 2105 LG process for a means of developing a negotiated settlement of the important issues within the authority of the FERC Project #2105 (NFFR) re-licensing process. We have listened and participated intently in all of the negotiations and found the signed April 24, 2004 agreement to have been accomplished with scientific guidelines and in a timely manner. The process worked well.
On the other hand the review and discussions of the unresolved water temperature issue (to decrease the water temperature in the Rock Creek and Cresta Reaches (RC/C) to at least 20 degree Celsius) has become a time-consuming and frustrating process driven by guidelines that were implemented under the FERC Project #1962 (RC/C) re-licensing agreement. Those provisions provide little encouragement that members of the 2105 LG will make the final decisions regarding the appropriateness of any water temperature requirements. (See Section I, 2. Prattville Intake Control Measure, which states in part: “The Ecological Resources Committee that was established with those that signed the RC/C agreement (Parties) and FS will evaluate the effectiveness of such control measures after review of the study results.)
It is obvious that concerns during the Project #1962 re-licensing were only for the cold water fish in those areas and there was no consideration about the obvious degradation to be expected in Lake Almanor and Butt Reservoir from the 50% reduction of the Lake Almanor cold water pool.
During the past three months, Plumas has attempted to display patience in the development of scientific data by PG&E and maintain our important collaborative role.
We will continue to be involved in the search for “reasonableness” in the water temperature solution, that we believe is basic to the guidelines within Project 1962.
However, we take this opportunity to elaborate our concerns and direction that we believe is necessary to reach a resolution within a reasonable time-period:
a) The requirements for 20 degrees Celsius down-river was set in the negotiated settlement without regard to earlier studies and agreements, including the following:
1) November 1, 1996 Draft EIA statement: “Based on the results of physical modeling studies and their projected temperature benefits, PG&E and California Fish and Game have separately concluded that equal, or greater protection and enhancement of NFFR fishery resources would result if PG&E provides funds for fishery enhancement projects than if PG&E fulfills the Agreement….Therefore, CDF&G and PG&E have agreed to amend the Agreement by deleting the requirement to modify the Prattville intake structure…..”
2) In the December 28, 1999 study completed for PG&E by Resource Decisions, many points were made, including the following:
· “Because food and not temperature is probably the limiting factor, that additional 1 degree Celsius due to temperature modification would not have any further effect on use.”
· “The temperature modification proposal does not come close to justifying its cost, as calculated by FERC methods. Whether it is considered as a self-standing option, or a combination of the 1991 Agreement, or the CDF&G proposal, that annual cost of $1.9 million is not a cost-effective way to spend the ratepayer’s money.”
3) Ron DeCota, a long-time CDF&G fish biologist, who helped manage Lake Almanor Fisheries wrote in a June 2003 letter; “We are not willing to take the chance that our concerns will not upset the delicate ecological balance in these two prized trophy trout lakes. Therefore, we recommend the feasibility study be abandoned and deepwater releases at Prattville (and Canyon Dam) not be pursued.”
4) A June 8, 2003 news release by University of Iowa described their modeling of the Prattville Intake Modification measure and quoted Professor A. Joe Odgaard as saying that “…a continuous withdrawal of only cold water would delete the lakes cold water supply, resulting in damage to the lake habitat.”
b) Very little scientific data has been presented that describes the Prattville Intake Modification impacts to Lake Almanor and Butt Reservoir. However, we have been assured that:
1) There are no sound data to measure the amount of the cold-water springs, nor to provide assurance of the original temperature of water downstream
2) There will be a reduction of up to 40% in salmonid habitat in Lake Almanor
3) A serious loss of the pond smelt that is an important part of the Butt Reservoir food source and primary reason for the Butt Reservoir trophy fish.
c) Dredging of 40,000 Cu.Yds. of mud from the lake bottom canals will be possibly deposited on the Prattville shores.
d) Maidu Tribe Cultural sites in the lake bottom cannot be properly surveyed.
e) SWRCB has designated the Rock Creek/Cresta Reaches as cold-water habitat, when in fact it provides habitat for hard head and other warm water fish that must be protected.
f) Our requests have not been met for intensive studies of Lake Almanor to assure that the ecological and fisheries integrity will be maintained.
g) The minimal study attempts have not taken into account the diversity of the Lake Almanor depth, width and underwater springs and the severe negative impact on fisheries that will result with the removal of 50% of the cold-water pool and a lowering of the lake level.
h) The study to evaluate the effects of water temperature on downstream fish habitat presented by PG&E during our August 2nd meeting was challenged by F.S., CDF&G and SWRCB, because they had not had adequate time to review the methodology utilized by PG&E. This is another, unacceptable delay.
i) PG&E for the past several months has indicated the need to contract the Draft EIR, yet as of August 2nd, the RPF for these contracts had not been let. This is another, unacceptable delay.
j) The necessity to amend the FERC Project #1962 License to assure that the final decision for water temperature modifications of any type will be made by the Parties within the 2105 LG, as well as the Rock Creek/Cresta ERC.
k) The Public has not been afforded a timely intervention into the 2105 LG due to protocols that have kept the meeting notes and printed studies from being publicized in a timely manner.
l) Because of k), we believe that sincere public input will be minimized, when in fact there are many, including fishing guides, private hydrologists and others who “know the lake” that could provide invaluable information.
m) The PG&E amended water temperature presentation during the August 2 meeting provided even lower assurance that the Prattville Intake Modification will be effective.
n) We are in agreement with Mr. Marvin Alexander’s earlier statement that the water temperature resolution lacks credibility and that it is actually a political issue.
Therefore, as we continue to be part of the collaborative group, Plumas County will:
a) Help to assure that all constituents, elected officials and agency leaders are kept apprised of the water temperature issue so that they can be involved in the scientific facts and the socio-economic debate.
b) Attempt to amend the Rock Creek/Cresta agreement through participation in ERC and discussions within
2105 LG to assure that Parties of both groups are involved in any water temperature modification proposals.
c) Request that FERC assist us in developing a time-table that will not permit these issues to delay the implementation of the FERC Project #2105 license. In other words, we will request that the license be accepted, as we continue to work towards a reasonable resolution of the water temperature issue.
d) Invite members of the 2105 LG to participate in any meetings that we may schedule with key individuals within the agency that they represent.
e) Review the potential for conducting a “Use Attainability Analysis” to determine if the Rock Creek/Cresta Reaches are truly cold-water systems.
f) Request that future 2105 LG meetings be conducted as if under the authority of the Brown Act, so that full public participation, including formal meeting notifications can be assured. This is based on the understanding that whereas our agreed protocol served the 2105 LG for settlement of the majority of our issues, this water temperature issue needs a broader public review.
It is important to reiterate that Plumas County intends to be an active partner in the 2105 LG, the RC/C ERC, and Poe re-licensing, so that reasonable, timely resolutions will be reached.
We thank you for this opportunity to provide our concerns and the future direction that we will be seeking.