Update on the Project 2105 Licensing Effort
By Aaron Seandel
published in the July 2005
Lake Almanor Country Club Newsletter
This article was written on June 12, 2005.
The 2105 Licensing Group continues to meet, with the next meeting scheduled for June 22nd in Chico. The major topic is the review of all alternatives that could achieve the objective of reducing water temperatures in the downstream reaches of the North Fork of the Feather River. Many options are being assessed.† The Thermal Curtain is still in the mix, along with the following; Swapping Powerhouse Flows, Mechanical Options, and Upstream Restoration.† All possibilities are being explored carefully, and will be evaluated in the CEQA document.
A brief description of the additional options follows.
Swapping Powerhouse Flows: This considers the release of more cold water at Canyon Dam with a corresponding increased amount of warmer water flowing through the Prattville Intake. There would be no change in the lake level as determined in the Settlement Agreement, signed in April of 2004. There are some factors to be considered; one having to reduce flow and affect power generation in the Caribou 1 and 2 powerhouses; second, more significant effects in Butt Valley Reservoir including higher surface temperatures, a lower thermocline, and colder water below the thermocline; third, the determination of how much stream flow is necessary, at various times of the year, through Canyon Dam to achieve the temperature goals downstream. This option does not appear to significantly affect temperature profiles in Lake Almanor, but it will be analyzed carefully during the CEQA process.† Each of the alternatives have expected impacts that would be analyzed in detail in the CEQA document
Mechanical Options: These are a collection of various options, which could be combined in different ways to achieve localized temperature modifications.† While this may include some flow swapping as described in the previous alternative, it is more focused on measures that cool some portion of the river by mechanical means such as: diverting some river flow through cooling towers or chillers before returning the flow to the river; tapping into power water through adit tunnels and routing that water through a chiller; and diverting Yellow Creek. The sub-group doing the studies of these alternatives has discussed the chiller/cooling tower footprint superimposed on potential sites within the project area and distributed an aerial photo footprint showing the Belden Tunnel Adit location approximately 1.8 miles downstream of the Belden Dam.† We have viewed a comparably sized facility (the Budweiser beer plant in Fairfield) for scale and discussed the potential effects of such a cooling facility constructed within the Feather River canyon.
Upstream Restoration: This is an off-site option designed to mitigate impairments to water temperature within the project boundary by restoring hydrologic function and ecological attributes to the North Fork Feather Riverís upper watershed outside the project boundary. It is the one most favored by the Plumas County 2105 committee, and is currently being fleshed out.† County staff, along with some assistance from P.G. & E, is currently developing the contents, processes and data for this alternative.† This choice assumes that the on-site options (within the 2105 Project area) are not feasible or reasonable so mitigation is conducted off-site.† The SWRCB has agreed that off-site mitigation could be an alternative but reminds us that CEQA considers avoidance first, then mitigation on-site and only after those options are exhausted, will considers off-site mitigation to address project impacts. The plan for this alternative does include funding for archival management of data, seed money for demonstrated effective restoration activities, a monitoring program, strategic plan for on-going funding, maintenance and repair dollars, and quantification of a dollar/mile effort to fund both pond and plug meadow restoration and riparian planting.
The CEQA process is required for PG&E to obtain a 401 water quality certificate from the SWRCB. The engineers who carry out this process are contracted by P.G. & E. but work under the supervision of the SWRCB. The firm employed, the Stetson Engineering Firm, met with the North State Resources Team, PG&E, and SWRCB staff met on Monday June 6th to begin the development of the EIR. Various reports have been provided to Stetson, along with access to models used in lake and river flow, temperature and water quality simulations to assist them in this endeavor. More information on CEQA, including guidelines that are to be followed can be accessed at www.ceres.ca.gov
There is still a list of unresolved issues included in the April 2004 Settlement Agreement that does not affect the timing of issuance of the new license by FERC. Shoreline erosion will be put in the hands of FERC to decide.† The question of water temperature effects from whitewater flow releases in the Belden Reach will be studied further.† The length of the license term (30,40 or 50 years) and whether the watershed projects should be licensed simultaneously (all North Fork Feather River projects) is being considered.† The angler trail access issue at Seneca remains unresolved. While upstream restoration includes off-site mitigation in the form of riparian restoration, the wetland off-site mitigation proposal to mitigate for pre-project impacts remains unresolved.
FERC will issue the project 2105 license soon after the resolution of the water temperature issue. We will have a good idea of the direction in which this will be going at the CEQA scoping meeting held in Chester, probably in late July or August. It is critical that we continue to have maximum community support at this meeting. Before that, please contact the decision makers regarding your feelings about the Thermal Curtain. Also, consider providing financial support for the efforts by the Save Lake Almanor committee. It will be welcomed.
Addresses for the state legislators and state committees, as well as where to send financial contributions are noted on the Save Lake Almanor website, www.savelakealmanor.org.† This website, along with the Project 2105 site, www.project2105.org continue to be excellent sources of information about the issues.
I hope you will refer to them on a frequent basis.