Project 2105 License Group (2105LG) Approved Meeting Summary – May 22, 2003
Call to order: Patti Kroen, Facilitator at 9 a.m.
Attendees: See Attachment 1 for list of attendees. Participants approved the May 22, 2003 meeting agenda with two modifications: revisions to the Shoreline Management Plan have not been completed and John Mintz is not in attendance to discuss the suggested revisions so that discussion will be deferred to the June 12, 2003 meeting. The Facilitator also reported that Aaron Seandel had requested the discussion on the draft Water Quality Monitoring Plan be deferred until June 12, 2003 to allow the sub-group adequate time to review a new proposal provided by PG&E. The discussion was rescheduled for the June 12, 2003 meeting agenda. The May 8, 2003 meeting summary was approved without revision. Mountain Meadows Conservancy noted that their board had met and decided to withdraw their suggestion for additional water quality sampling at Mountain Meadows Reservoir.
FERC has inquired about the 2105LG meeting summaries and Plumas County reported that the County is considering posting the summaries on their web site. PG&E agreed to direct inquiries regarding the 2105LG process to the Plumas County web site and suggested that the Process Protocols also be posted on the web site. Christi Goodman will confirm status of the web site with Plumas County staff and post the approved meeting summaries and protocol. She will also confirm the correct web address.
Sharon Stohrer asked the group to consider writing a letter to FERC requesting a delay in their scheduled notice of ‘ready for environmental analysis’ (REA) to accommodate the collaborative process. FERC has identified June 30, 2003 as a deadline for agreement submittal and the 2105LG would like to suggest an October deadline instead. The 2105LG discussed the important items to include in the letter as follows:
§ Web site for collaborative information and meeting summaries,
§ Schedule for modeling (including how this will assist FERC in their analysis),
§ Alternative deadline of October 2003 for settlement agreement – not intended to alter FERC decision deadline, and
§ Letter to be signed by PG&E on behalf of the 2105LG collaborative.
Wayne Dyok agreed to draft the letter and send it to the Facilitator by May 27th for distribution and approval of the 2105LG. The participants agreed that the approved letter would be sent by PG&E to FERC as soon as possible.
The facilitator reviewed the action items that have had some progress made since the last 2105LG meeting and noted that Plumas County, PG&E and the private gravel operator have met regarding the potential marina/dredging project but Bill Dennison is not in attendance to report on the meeting. Wayne Dyok reported that the settlement agreement template under development by NOAA Fisheries and the FWS and based in large part on the Rock Creek-Cresta Settlement Agreement has been approved by the agencies and he will forward it to PG&E immediately. PG&E responded that they would then begin work on the boilerplate sections of the settlement agreement based on the template provided by Wayne.
Recreation Flow Proposal Discussion:
The Facilitator distributed copies of two e-mails, one from Jerry Mensch representing California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) and the other from Michael Condon representing the US Forest Service (FS), regarding the whitewater flow proposal submitted by American Whitewater (AW) (attachments 2 and 3). She also read a sentence-long e-mail message from Mike Meinz representing California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) in response to the FS comment, “DFG shares your concerns and prefers that the Rock Creek Cresta studies should be completed prior to discussing summer white water flows in the UNFFR project.”
Dave Steindorf stated that AW is in full support of conducting any and all studies needed to analyze the impacts of boating flows and asked the FS to clarify their position on further studies. Mike Taylor responded that the FS is unclear as to what information is necessary to make a decision on boating flows and are concerned that due to the schedule of studies on Rock Creek-Cresta and the deadline to submit a settlement agreement for this process, adequate information will not be available in time to make a decision on boating flows for inclusion in the 2105 Settlement Agreement and license conditions. Mike added that during the Rock Creek-Cresta negotiation thresholds for information gathering were not established so it is difficult to evaluate when enough information has been collected.
The FS offered that they would consider a reserve condition in the 2105 license to allow the initiation of boating flows after a definite study process to assess the issues has been followed and the results are favorable. Dave Steindorf asked that all stakeholders be willing to apply the same standards equally to beneficial uses. He stated that each interest group needs to be willing to accept the same level of scrutiny and that American Whitewater will not sign a settlement agreement if the standards are not equitably applied.
The 2105LG discussed the potential to use information from other river systems and cited the Tuolumne and the Middle Fork American rivers as two systems that support excellent fisheries with regular flow fluctuations. The Belden Reach was described as providing better boater access than the Rock Creek-Cresta Reach with more opportunities for the beginning and intermediate skill levels. The 2105LG discussed potential angler/boater conflicts, existing use in the area for camping, fishing and swimming and the geographic constraints or carrying capacity for the canyon. The FS pointed out that the Rock Creek-Cresta evaluation focused on the biological impacts and spent little time evaluating the management aspects of increased use along the river.
The 2105LG discussed the need for additional information and PG&E noted that while the data from the Rock Creek-Cresta studies may not be directly transferable, the methodology should be. The FS noted that they are reluctant to initiate additional studies until answers are obtained for the Rock Creek-Cresta reach and while they are not interested in developing additional recreation on the Belden or Seneca reaches, they are willing to work with the collaborative to try and come to a mutually acceptable resolution. The 2105LG formed a Task Force to consider the whitewater flow issue and determine the information necessary to make a decision. The Task Force will consist of the following participants:
§ FS – Mike Taylor or Michael Condon or Sue Norman
§ PG&E – Stu Running
§ ACAAWWF – Brian Kempkes
§ USFWS – Steven Schoenberg
§ AW – Dave Steindorf or Eric Petlock
§ SWRCB – Sharon Stohrer
§ CDFG – Robert Hughes
§ CSPA – Jerry Mensch
Clarification on Fishery Studies at Lake Almanor:
Following up on a request for clarification of recent activities associated with fishing groups in the Lake Almanor area, Stu Running reported on a meeting of the Lake Almanor Fishery Group that he attended. He stated that PG&E has hired the consulting firm of Thomas Payne and Associates to gather information to assist in the effort to assess impacts of the potential coldwater modification project on the fishing at Lake Almanor. He attended the meeting to answer questions from the fishery group and to ask for information on where they tend to find the fish during certain parts of the year. He added that PG&E has no study plan for this effort but will share the information collected with the collaborative. Several participants expressed concern that such additional information gathering does not lead to clear results or to a sense of collaboration and may instead lead to confusion if individuals are not provided adequate information. The 2105LG suggested that the fishery group be invited to participate in the 2105LG collaborative process. Sharon Stohrer asked that the 2105LG be notified in advance of the next fishery group meeting and be provided with a scope of work for the Thomas Payne and Associates effort.
Jerry Mensch presented a draft license condition pertaining to wetland and riparian restoration (Attachment 4) and reviewed the main points included. He will forward a copy to the Facilitator to distribute to the 2105LG for review and comment.
Wayne Dyok stated that he is still working on the revisions to the MOU and will forward the revised document to PG&E for review and comment. Unresolved issues include the annual helicopter flyover and installation of lighted beacons. PG&E is willing to provide their helicopter to Plumas County at cost so that the county sheriff can conduct an aerial survey for floating logs but is unwilling to set a precedent for all of their reservoirs by installing lighted beacons on natural hazards. Wayne will confirm if concerns still exist regarding buoys on Butt Valley Reservoir.
LAWLAF Scenario Development Update:
Bruce McGurk with PG&E discussed development of a model for evaluating the effects on lake levels and power generation from alternative flow scenarios. He described the switches embedded in the model such as lake levels targets for specific months and the percentage of water withdrawal to come from storage or power, and explained the use of historic water year data and power generation to reconstruct the historic and current operation of the project. He described the alternative scenarios developed by the LAWLAF sub-committee that are currently under review and displayed the output with a series of comparative graphs designed to show the relative changes one could expect from historic operational effects if the project was operated under a different flow regime.
Bruce noted that there is no rule curve to guide the operation of Lake Almanor but there are some historic points or targets below which PG&E does not wish to operate. He said the critical power generation months for PG&E are from July through October and they have been trying to adjust their operations so that the peak lake level is in July rather then June to accommodate the summer recreation at Lake Almanor. PG&E also considers flood control in their current operation strategy. Bruce added that since PG&E must meet downstream capacity requirements and instream flow requirements, minimum Lake Almanor water level targets requested by Plumas County may be violated in the LAWLAF model depending on water year type and flow scenario.
The 2105LG discussed the Western Canal agreement and whether it could be re-negotiated. There does not appear to be any incentive to renegotiate the agreement that delivers 145,000 acre-feet of water from storage by October 31 to Lake Oroville and downstream irrigation districts. Allowing for evaporative loses the gross amount is over 200,000 acre-feet delivered from PG&E reservoirs upstream of Oroville (e.g. Lake Almanor, Butt Valley, Bucks Lake).
Bruce verified the model by running historic data sets and comparing results to historic lake level records. The group discussed the preliminary results of the model runs and Plumas County requested a run with current 35-cfs releases and the County lake level targets. Wayne Dyok noted that as part of the Oroville Facilities relicensing effort, DWR is constructing a model for Oroville called HYDROPS and PG&E might want to consider working with DWR to link Lake Almanor operations into their modeling.
Bruce explained that the results of his modeling efforts are provided to Scott Tu to evaluate the temperature effects of alternative flow scenarios. Scott described his efforts to model the temperature effects of alternative flow scenarios both within the reservoirs and within the downstream reaches. He explained the decision to use 1975 as a ‘normal’ water year and noted that the critical months for temperature are from February through September. He reported that under the existing Prattville condition, temperatures are predicted to be one degree cooler under both of the LAWLAF alternatives. The curves for the County targets are also lower than the PG&E targets since the lake levels are held higher however, all cases modeled resulted in warmer conditions than current operations provide. Scott explained the process involved in running one alternative scenario and the 2105LG discussed the desire to reduce the number of model runs to the fewest possible that will still provide the needed information for the collaborative to reach an agreement.
Scott noted that his model and Bruce’s model have a discrepancy between reservoir elevations that may be a result of differing assumptions related to evaporation. They will work on resolving that issue. The participants expressed the desire to receive copies of the graphs and model output as soon as possible. LAWLAF will continue to develop and/or refine alternative flow scenarios and discuss modeling results to avoid irrelevant analysis if possible. LAWLAF has several meetings scheduled for the next few weeks and intends to provide flow recommendations based on model results to the full 2105LG for consideration as soon as possible.
The Facilitator reminded participants that the next 2105LG meeting is scheduled for June 12 in Chico. The PG&E Rio Lindo facility is not available but an alternative location in Chico will be identified and the information sent to the 2105LG as soon as it is finalized. The agenda is expected to include the review of text revisions for the Shoreline Management Plan, the Recreation Management Plan, and the Water Quality Monitoring and Coordination Plan for inclusion in the settlement agreement.
q Action Item 26: Christi Goodman will confirm status of the web site with Plumas County staff, post approved meeting summaries and protocol on the web site, and distribute the correct web address to the 2105LG. PG&E will direct inquiries about the 2105LG to the Plumas County web site.
Due Date: June 12, 2003
q Action Item 27: Wayne Dyok will draft letter to FERC requesting delay in noticing REA. After 2105LG review and approval, PG&E will send the letter on behalf of 2105LG.
Due Date: Draft to Facilitator by May 27; target mailing date ASAP.
q Action Item 28: Convene a Task Force to consider the whitewater flow issue and determine the information necessary to make a decision.
Due Date: Task Force will meet at 9:30 am on June 10 at the Plumas Forest Service Office in Oroville.
q Action Item 29: PG&E will provide scope of work for Thomas Payne and Associates’ information gathering efforts and notify the 2105LG of next fishery group meeting.
Due Date: June 12, 2003; notify as appropriate.
q Action Item 30: Participants review and provide comments on Wetland and Riparian proposal.
Due Date: June 22, 2003.
Upcoming 2105LG meeting dates and tentative locations:
June 12 Chico
June 26 Oroville?
July 10 Chico
July 24 Chico
July 31 Chester
Wayne Dyok MWH
Christi Goodman Plumas County
Robert Hughes CDFG
Tom Hunter Plumas County
Tom Jereb PG&E
Brian Kempkes ACAAWWF
Patti Kroen Kroen
Bruce McGurk PG&E
Jerry Mensch CSPA
Sue Norman USFS
Eric Petlock AW
Steve Robinson MMC
Stuart Running PG&E
Steven Schoenberg USFWS
David Steindorf AW
Sharon Stohrer SWRCB
Mike Taylor USFS
Scott Tu PG&E
Steve Wald Hydropower Reform Coalition
Bill Zemke PG&E
Comments of California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) on Project 2105 Whitewater Flow Proposals
CSPA has for nearly 3 years requested that scientifically based studies be conducted for Project 2105 on the potential impacts of whitewater boating flows. These requests have been made repeatedly during meetings of the work group led by PG&E developing and reviewing study plans, during comments on study plans, in written comments to PG&E and to FERC and in this forum. To date NO studies of the adverse impacts of whitewater flows on aquatic resources have been conducted.
Studies are necessary to determine impacts of whitewater boating flows to fish, amphibians, macroinvertebrates (for which fish and a multitude of other species depend for food), wildlife and numerous other river recreation uses such as angling, swimming and streamside camping.. The information is particularly important since flows of the proposed magnitude and rate of fluctuation do not occur under natural flow regimes and can adversely affect all other listed uses and resources. Studies on other rivers and other areas of the North Fork Feather have shown that significant adverse resource impacts can occur as the result of whitewater flows. In addition, stream reaches of Project 2105 are currently receiving a high level of recreational use for fishing, camping and swimming and facilities are often near capacity. All of these uses would be adversely affected by the whitewater boating proposal and some would be totally displaced during whitewater events.
Under the California Environmental Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Federal Power Act (all of which are applicable to decisions on Project 2105) decisions on conditions to be included in licenses or permits are to be supported by scientifically based data and the results of studies conducted as part of the relicensing process. The failure to complete the necessary studies of whitewater boating flow impacts on resources of the North Fork Feather River leaves us with little or no data on adverse environmental impacts, no data which to support inclusion of flows and no information on which to base mitigation measures. This lack of scientifically based information precludes a thoughtful and informed evaluation of alternatives and leaves open the threat of significant resource damage.
On other projects, proposals have included options of including whitewater flows in the License and conducting studies to determine levels of adverse impacts at a later date.. However, the requirement recently stated on another project on the North Fork Feather, that changes to remove boating flows must be supported by “statistically valid, scientifically credible evidence of significant resource harm” would make inclusion without scientific data an unacceptable circumstance. If this is to be the standard then it is the position of CSPA that “statistically valid, scientifically credible evidence of NO significant resource harm” must be available in order to incorporate provisions for whitewater flows in any agreement for Project 2105. This position is consistent with the legal requirements of CEQA, NEPA and the Federal Power Act and with the argument of equal treatment under the law.
CSPA will oppose any inclusion of whitewater flows until scientifically based studies document that adverse environmental impacts will not occur as a result of those flows or that mitigation measures included in any license or permit will reduce those impacts to less than significant as is required by law.
At our last 2105 LC meeting we developed a list of items we need to start developing settlement agreement language on. One of those items was White Water Boating Flows. It occurred to me that we should have some discussion on that topic to see if it was going to be possible to reach agreement. Without reasonable likelihood of agreement, there is not much point in putting a lot of work into settlement agreement language. This is the reason that Whitewater Flows is on the agenda.
As it turns out, I have a scheduling conflict and likely will not be at the May 22 meeting. So......At the risk of being blunt, I would like to share the USFS “preferred” alternative and “compromise” alternative. I suspect that CSPO and CDF&G may have some areas of agreement. But I fear that our view will not be acceptable to AW and The State Water Quality Control Board. If that is the case, this may be one of those issues on which we agree to disagree, set the issue aside in terms of our settlement efforts, and move forward focusing our energy on those issues we can reasonably expect to resolve.
The preferred alternative of the Forest Service is to not schedule any whitewater recreation boating flows during the months of June through September. I believe you have heard our rationale for this before so I will not repeat them here. I accept that some of you may not agree with our rationale.
We recognize that not all members of the 2105LG agree with this view. We understand the need to do our best to offer some middle ground if our collaborative effort is to succeed. As you know, our concerns are tied to important resource issues and the potential for resource damage, as well as liability concerns. We cannot prove with any scientific certainty what that resource damage is likely to occur. Nor can anyone prove with any degree of certainty that there will be no damage. That begs the question of doing more studies such as are being done on Rock Creek Cresta.
We do not feel additional study and an adaptive management approach such as in place on Rock Creek Cresta, is the right approach on 2105 for a few reasons. First, the studies themselves may cause environmental harm that may or may not go undetected for some time. One thing we are learning on Rock Creek Cresta is the extreme difficulty of assessing the impacts of the pulse flows. Secondly, once the trial flows are in place, there is a high expectation from that user group that they are there to stay. It is much easier to say “no” now, than after a trial period of a few years. And thirdly, we have heard from representatives of the State Water Quality Resources Control Board, that the Board believes that eliminating the recreation pulse flows on Rock Creek Cresta will require statistically valid, scientifically credible evidence of significant resource harm evaluated at an evidentiary hearing and the ultimate outcome the sole decision of the Board. While the Forest Service does not accept this position, it sets the bar far too high for us to be comfortable taking a risk on potential resource damage now while there is debate over whether we can make changes at a later date if we determine there is harm to National Forest resources.
With the aforementioned in mind, the best we can offer in the way of a compromise is to re-evaluate summertime recreational pulse flows after the conclusion of the Rock Creek Cresta trial period. In the mean time, we would like to focus our efforts by doing whatever we can do to accommodate white water boating in the months of fall through spring. Ecological pulse flows, designed to be in line with naturally occurring pulses, may provide an excellent opportunity for white water boating. We realize that water contact recreation is a beneficial use and we support that in all its forms. We believe there is opportunity to focus effort on information, education, facilities and flow levels that will maintain and improve water contact recreation opportunities without presenting potential environmental degradation.
I invite each of the other interested parties to share their views on this issue so that we can determine if there is room for possible agreement. If there is, that is great. If there is not, I hope we can congenially and quickly set this issue aside and focus our limited time on those issue where we might reach agreement.
Please consider this document as my input for the May 22 meeting. I would like it to be entered into the notes and treated as any other meeting discussion as per our protocols.
Plumas National Forest
Draft Agreement Conditions-Confidential for Discussion Purposes Only
WETLANDS AND RIPARIAN
PROTECTION AND RESTORATION PROGRAM
The Upper North Fork Feather River Project (2105), which now includes Mountain Meadows Reservoir has and continues to impact large areas of wetland and riparian habitat. Areas now inundated by project reservoirs (Almanor, Butt Valley and Mountain Meadows) all historically supported significant acreages of wetland and riparian vegetation and the numerous aquatic and terrestrial species which use and depend on these habitat types. A review of maps of the area under Lake Almanor, identify large areas of braided stream channel and part of the area was known as Big Swamp. The Mountain Meadows Reservoir site historically was a high elevation meadow-stream complex with very high fish and wildlife values for a multitude of species.
Attributes considered and to be covered or partially covered under this proposal, include Recreation, Riparian, Wildlife Habitat, Sensitive Species and Water Quality. These actions will offset or partially offset project caused or related impacts and are intended to be Protection, Mitigation and Enhancement (PM&E) measures to be included in any Agreement or License for Project 2105.
1. To offset the loss of critical wetland and riparian habitats from continuing operation of Project 2105 for hydroelectric project purposes and to enhance overall natural resource values, PG&E fee owned lands in the area surrounding Mountain Meadows Reservoir and in Humbug Valley (Depicted on the attached maps) shall be managed for natural resource protection, fish and wildlife habitat enhancement and protection and recreation compatible with such resource protection
2. A conservation easement for Humbug Valley and Mountain Meadows fee lands owned by PG&E shall be granted to the Department of Fish and Game.
3. Lands shall be managed according to a plan to be developed within two years after license issuance.
4. The land management plan and administration of the plan and lands shall be accomplished through an Upper North Fork Feather River Management Committee comprised of signatories to the Agreement for Project. 2106
5. Funding for plan development be provided by PG&E as well as matching funds for development and maintenance not to exceed $250,000.
The Conservation Easements and other conditions will be included in the Agreement as a separate element of the Agreement (Appendix B) which is not made a license term and is contractual in nature between the signatories to the Agreement and PG&E.