Of Congressman Doolittle
Chester, August 19th , 2004
Congressman Doolittle attended an August 19th, special luncheon meeting facilitated by Plumas County Supervisor Bill Dennison at the Culinary Arts Institute in Chester.
The congressman spoke to a group of over 30 people about the nation’s economy, the importance of the Healthy Forest Bill, the Quincy Library Group and Fire Safe Councils, as well as Medicare reimbursements and other health related issues. The congressman said that he was impressed by the economic improvements in Plumas County and noted that he continues to seek funding for local projects, such as the recent appropriations of $100,000 for our libraries and funding for the 911 Emergency Communications Center that will soon be constructed at the Sheriff’s office’s in Quincy.
The attendees emphasized their concern about the local economy and adamant objection to the PG&E proposal to install a thermal curtain at the Prattville Intake, by the posting of one of many large, blue and white signs “Save The Lake—Stop The Curtain” that are now in several locations around Lake Almanor. Individuals told the congressman that it made no sense to risk the ecology of Lake Almanor and Butt Reservoir by withdrawing 50% of the cold-water pool. They questioned an experimental program that could destroy the businesses and home values around the lake merely to raise the water temperature one degree Celsius for the fish habitat forty miles down-stream. They noted that PG&E has not completed studies that fully evaluate the damage that this proposal will cause to Lake Almanor and Butt Reservoir.
Wendi Durkin, eloquently summarized the economic facts for the Lake Almanor Basin and Plumas County. Ms. Durkin stated that she had grown up in Chester with a family who had been dependent upon the forest products industry. She noted that times have changed and the logging/mill job opportunities have been substantially reduced, but the many special attributes of Lake Almanor present an opportunity for a strong, renewed economy, but the lake must be protected. She was supported by everyone in attendance, some of whom referenced Clear Lake and Lake Tahoe as good examples of what could happen to Lake Almanor and acknowledged their quest to make certain that the water quality, including the temperature, clarity and lake levels are protected and not subject to unproven water temperature modification experiments.
The Congressman was aware of the wide-spread disapproval of the PG&E proposal to install a temperature curtain at the Prattville Intake and said that although water temperature issue is a state issue, he will lend support wherever possible, including discussions with FERC representatives to determine if the FERC 2105 license can be approved, while the water temperature issue is still under review. This was of high concern to the group, since all of the recreation improvements, lake water levels and water releases that were included in the April 24th , 2004 Negotiated Settlement will be detained until the license is finalized by FERC.
Congressman Doolittle recommended that a meeting be scheduled with the Governor Schwarzenegger to assure that he understands the significance of this issue.
Dismay was expressed over the January 2004 California study “Final Fish Passage Model” (under Oroville Facilities Relicensing) that proposes that salmon and steelhead be transported from below Lake Oroville to the Seneca Reach of the NFFR, below Canyon Dam. One person asked, “What is the motivation?” Congressman Doolittle stated his belief that this is based on water demands by southern California water interests, who will lose some of the water they are currently obtaining, if they can not determine a way to improve the fish spawning habitat for those species listed under the Endangered Species Act. The congressman said that there should be a requirement to justify the data that has been developed for this proposal. Under a federal project, this verification would be required under the Data Quality Control Act.
Mike Willhoit, Seneca Health Care District board member requested that Congressman Doolittle provide guidance to assure that there are meaningful results from the Rural Health Care Reimbursement Bill, that there be consideration for more substantive Medicare Reimbursements and that there be provisions for low interest loans to assist rural hospitals in meeting the seismic retrofitting requirements imposed by the State of California.
In wrapping up the meeting, Congressman Doolittle was also requested to provide answers to the following water temperature issue questions:
* The proposal to consider the “reasonableness” of the Prattville curtain was developed under the Rock Creek/Cresta license and the feasibility left to the Ecologic Resource Committee (ERC) developed under that license. If that group cannot reach a consensus quickly, can FERC delegate those decisions to the 2105 Licensing Group Committee?
* Currently, the Rock Creek/Cresta river reaches have been designated by the SWRCB as cold water fish habitat.
Yet, Forest Service recognizes the need to protect warm water species at the same time that SWRCB is attempting to decrease the temperature of the water. How can these waters be designated as both warm and cold water and possibly ameliorate the need to lower the water temperature to 20 degrees Celsius?
A broad unanswerable question was asked by one attendee—“If the Prattville Intake Curtain is constructed, what is to keep the bureaucrats from taking all of the water?”