Congressman John Garamendi, who represents the northern half of
Lake County, on Friday submitted a formal comment to the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission opposing removal of Scott
Dam on the Eel River at Lake Pillsbury and demanding that Lake
County have an equal seat at the table for determining the
future of Potter Valley Project and the lake.
A dialogue organized by Stanford that brought together
environmental organizations, hydropower companies, investors,
government agencies and universities has resulted in an
important new agreement to help address climate change… Dan
Reicher, a former U.S. assistant secretary of energy and board
member of the conservation group American Rivers, spoke with us
about brokering this new agreement…
The industry that operates America’s hydroelectric dams and
several environmental groups announced an unusual agreement
Tuesday to work together to get more clean energy from
hydropower while reducing the environmental harm from dams, in
a sign that the threat of climate change is spurring both sides
to rethink their decades-long battle over a large but
contentious source of renewable power. The United States
generated about 7 percent of its electricity last year from
hydropower, mainly from large dams built decades ago, such as
the Hoover Dam, which uses flowing water from the Colorado
River to power turbines.
In the new study, scientists at The University of Texas at
Austin in collaboration with the Union of Concerned Scientists
found that leading climate projections used by the state
strongly agree that climate change will shift the timing and
intensity of rainfall and the health of the state’s snowpack in
ways that will make water management more difficult during the
In California’s Placer County, an unusual partnership between a
county water utility, the U.S. Forest Service and
environmentalists is taking on the work to prevent catastrophic
fires on more than 11,000 hectares in the northern Sierra
Nevada Mountains. The partnership arose from the ashes of
2014’s King fire.
Linking floating solar panels with hydropower could produce the
equivalent of 40% of the world’s electricity, according to a
new study by researchers at the Department of Energy. … The
study provides the first global look by federal researchers at
the technical potential of the hybrid concept.
Among the people forced to flee the Creek Fire were workers who
keep the vast network of hydroelectric dams running. Eric
Quinley, general manager of the Delano-Earlimart Irrigation
District, worried some of his table grape growers might not get
enough water in the future to finish up the growing season.
When the Creek Fire erupted on Sept. 5 and chewed through the
forest toward Southern California Edison’s Big Creek power
system, little did anyone know how that might affect grape
growers in Delano nearly a month later.
A crisis could be approaching. The two giant reservoirs on the
Colorado River are both below 50 percent of capacity. If
drought causes even more drastic drops, the Bureau of
Reclamation could step in to prioritize the making of
electricity by the hydro plants at lakes Mead and Powell. No
one knows what BuRec would do, but it would call the shots and
end current arrangements.
The right balance of nutrients is crucial for a healthy coastal
ecosystem. If rivers deposit too much nitrogen and phosphorus
in coastal areas, algae that flourish on those nutrients can
cause dead zones; if too little silicon flows downstream,
organisms that depend on it will die off.
Four aging dams on the Klamath River are coming down. Their
completion between 1921 and 1964 brought hydroelectric power to
Northern California. It also blocked hundreds of kilometers of
fish habitat, causing Chinook salmon to effectively disappear
from the upper river basin. But the removal of dams is no
guarantee the fish will return, so a team of wildlife
researchers hopes it can coax the fish to repopulate the river
by exploiting a new discovery about salmon genetics.
The Bureau of Reclamation, US Department of Energy’s Water
Power Technology Office and Army Corps of Engineers signed the
memorandum at Hoover Dam on Monday, which was National
Hydropower Day. The MOU provides for a collaborative working
relationship that prioritizes similar goals and aligns ongoing
and future renewable energy development efforts among the three
The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians once warned that a
proposed mine would obliterate a sacred site equal to the
Biblical Garden of Eden. Now, the southwest Riverside County
tribe is sounding a similar alarm about the Lake Elsinore
Advanced Pumped Storage Project, or LEAPS, a hydroelectric
project proposed for the Lake Elsinore area.
Most scientists in the field agree that sea levels should have
risen more than they did over most of the past century. In this
new effort, the researchers have taken another look at the
problem and suggest the reason for the discrepancies was water
being captured in reservoirs by dams.
The San Diego County Water Authority announced Monday it is
partnering with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC
San Diego to better predict atmospheric rivers and improve
water management before, during and after those seasonal
storms. [The other affiliates are: Irvine Ranch Water District,
Orange County Water District, Sonoma Water, Turlock Irrigation
District, and Yuba Water Agency.]
As the Lake Elsinore Advanced Pumped Storage, or LEAPS,
hydroelectric project proceeds with licensing approval from the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, local roles have been
defined with a water delivery agreement following years of
litigation over project details.
It will take time to conduct a thorough autopsy of the
blackouts. Some observers have said the shutoffs were actually
unnecessary, that the state had enough power to make it through
the heat wave. Gov. Newsom has called for an investigation into
A new Water Resources Development Act, or WRDA, has made
headway in Congress, most recently with House passage of a bill
authorizing about $9 billion for Army Corps of Engineers flood
and storm protection, environmental restoration and other
projects. But with time running short before Congress breaks
for the Nov. 3 elections, industry sources say water
infrastructure legislation may be put off until an expected
lame duck session.
The California Public Utilities Commission assumed that
hydroelectric plants would provide as much as 8,000 megawatts
when demand peaked this summer. But that number appears to have
failed to take into account low water levels at many dams…
And those plants delivered only 5,514 megawatts last Friday,
according to the California Independent System Operator.
The State Water Board and environmental conservationists have
filed lawsuits against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
at the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals to protect the
Yuba and Bear river watersheds…
Sonoma Water Engineer Chris Delaney led development of a
forecast informed reservoir operations (FIRO) decision support
system for Lake Mendocino… Center For Western Weather And
Water Extremes… A proof-of-concept model was originally
developed by Chris in 2015 as a personal research project, and
has been refined over the past 5 years with research and
North Coast Congressmember Jared Huffman hosted a forum of the
Water, Oceans and Wildlife Subcommittee he chairs Tuesday
afternoon, orchestrating a two-hour panel discussion focused on
the stalled agreement to remove four hydroelectric dams from
the ailing Klamath River.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a statewide emergency in order
to help California respond to the fires burning across the
state amid an extreme heat wave that brought more warnings
about power outages on Tuesday. More than 30 wildfires are
burning across California, including nearly a dozen that
started in the last two days…
For the first time in nearly two decades, the federal
government tapped Glen Canyon Dam for extra power generating
capacity this weekend, triggering emergency water releases
as heat waves persisted across the West.
North Coast Rep. Jared Huffman will lead a live-streamed forum
that will examine the impacts of the Klamath Dams on tribes,
fisheries, the environment and downstream stakeholders on
Tuesday, Aug. 18 at 2 p.m.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. announced it will no longer be
conducting higher water flows for whitewater recreation on the
Feather River during the weekend of Aug. 22-23, saying in a
press release the cancellation came as a result of the COVID-19
The Bureau of Reclamation announced Wednesday a 30-day public
comment period for a 35-year contract renewal of the transfer
of operation, maintenance and replacement activities related to
Friant-Kern Canal and other associated works to the Friant
If built, it would … pump groundwater into four new
reservoirs … Tribal members and environmentalists say the
project would flood several miles of canyons sacred to the
Navajo; risk damaging cultural sites for several tribes; draw
vast amounts of critical groundwater; potentially harm habitats
for plants and animals, including some endangered species; and
risk adverse effects for waterways leading into the Grand
By the 2070s, climate change will reduce snowpack and increase
extreme rainfall in the Sierra Nevada and California’s
reservoirs will likely be overwhelmed. That’s according to a
new study by UCLA climate scientists, who predict that run-off
during so-called atmospheric rivers will increase by nearly 50
percent, leading to widespread flooding across the state.
The loss in hydroelectric generation during the 2012-16 drought
cost PG&E and other California utilities about $5.5
billion, a new study says. As California’s climate becomes more
prone to severe droughts, the findings point to future costs
that utilities — and ultimately ratepayers — will likely be
forced to bear.
The average annual flow of the Colorado River has decreased 19
percent compared to its 20th century average. Models predict
that by 2100, the river flow could fall as much as 55 percent.
The Colorado River, and the people it sustains, are in serious
For us, dam removal is absolutely necessary to restore our
struggling fisheries, maintain cultural practices, and provide
tribal members who struggle to make ends meet access to
traditional subsistence foods.
Summer energy demands driven higher as the COVID-19 pandemic
keeps more people at home could lead to more water flowing from
Glen Canyon Dam into the Colorado River. That could mean
rapidly changing conditions for rafters, anglers, hikers or
others on the river in Glen Canyon or the Grand Canyon,
A 1997 guidance document from the White House Council on
Environmental Quality lays out best practices for FERC and
other agencies to address environmental justice as part of
reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act. The agency
isn’t legally required to act on its findings.
Species such as salmon, trout and giant catfish are vital not
just to the rivers and lakes in which they breed or feed but to
entire ecosystems. By swimming upstream, they transport
nutrients from the oceans and provide food for many land
animals, including bears, wolves and birds of prey.
President Trump made two nominations to the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission Monday, bowing to pressure from
Democratic lawmakers who have pushed to maintain the bipartisan
split in the commission.
In 1961, Placer County voters overwhelmingly approved the sale
of bonds to finance construction of the Middle Fork American
River Hydroelectric Project (MFP). Nearly 60 years later, with
the bonds fully paid and financial reserves fully funded, the
first-ever distribution of net revenue from the MFP has been
For the past five years, Monty Currier, a California Department
of Fish and Wildlife environmental scientist, has been working
to rebuild the fishery at Mountain Meadows Reservoir after
the PG&E impoundment went dry in 2015 from the
combined effects of maintenance work and the drought. The
unfortunate fish kill presented Currier with something of a
Pumped storage hydropower (PSH) is a pretty simple technology.
… The effect is not to create energy. In fact, these
facilities are net consumers of energy. But by making renewable
energy available when it is most needed, PSH helps renewables
better match demand, reducing the need for gas on the grid.
The latest proposal would trim the budget by $2 billion and the
storage capacity by about 300,000 acre-feet, according to Jerry
Brown, the new executive director of the project. Sites would
use existing canals for conveyance rather than build new
pipelines. The plan also eliminates a pumped-storage system for
generating and storing energy during high flow events. He said
the business case for that element of the project “just didn’t
The country’s largest dam removal project was thrown into
question last week when federal regulators refused to let the
current owner fully transfer the impoundments to a nonprofit to
carry out the demolition.
After four years of review, FERC granted the transfer of the
license for the J.C. Boyle, Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2 and Iron
Gate dams (collectively known as the Lower Klamath Project) to
the Klamath River Renewal Corporation, a nonprofit that would
carry out the dam removal. But it requires PacifiCorp, the
utility that currently operates the dams, to remain on the
While it’s fair to say that salmon and steelhead are dying the
death of a thousand cuts in the Eel River, Scott Dam is by far
the deepest and most damaging of these injuries. Dam removal
efforts from Maine to Washington State to here in California
have shown time and again that restoring access to historical
spawning grounds is key to rebounding fish populations.
A multibillion-dollar measure that would help build, repair,
and maintain a wide variety of water infrastructure projects
sailed through the House Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee Wednesday. Approved unanimously by voice vote, the
Water Resources Development Act of 2020 (H.R. 7575) would
authorize the Army Corps of Engineers every two years to carry
out specific projects and feasibility studies.
The Karuk Tribe is set to hold its World Renewal Ceremonies in
Six Rivers and Klamath national forests from July through late
September. In honor of these long-standing tribal traditions,
outsiders will be prohibited from entering the water or
launching watercraft during the ceremonies, the U.S. Forest
Service has announced in a press release.
For the past two decades, dams have been falling across the
United States in a bid to reverse a legacy of destruction of
fish and their habitat. … But in southwestern Washington, a
local flood control district is going against the flow by
proposing a major new dam on the Chehalis River. … The
Chehalis is a critical salmon stream and the largest river
system fully contained within the state’s boundaries.
Pasadena conservationist groups secured a major victory on
Tuesday when the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
approved a settlement agreement, ending a protracted legal
battle centered on the removal of 1.7 million cubic yards of
sediment from the Devil’s Gate Dam and its potential
Decades of environmental protection is threatened to be undone
by the recent Trump Administration Executive Order to roll back
regulations from the Clean Water Act to speed up energy
projects. The proceeding EPA rule-making procedures make it
easier for owners of hydroelectric dam projects to bypass state
oversight and environmental accountability. Without legislative
protection, our waterways are under threat.
Researchers in the Grand Canyon now spend weeks at a time,
several times a year, monitoring humpback chub, which has
become central to an ecosystem science program with
implications for millions of westerners who rely on Colorado
In a recent study published in Environmental Research Letters,
a National Science Foundation-funded team led by a researcher
from North Carolina State University analyzed the effects of a
drought in California. The drought happened from 2012-2016 and
was one of the worst in the state’s history. The scientists
found that drought led to significant increases in power costs
for three major utilities in the state.
On June 24, 2020, the United States District Court for the
Eastern District of California denied the preliminary
injunctive relief requested by a coalition of fishery and
environmental groups regarding the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s
operations of Shasta Dam and Reservoir, and related temperature
management actions on the upper Sacramento River.
The feasibility study refers to removal of Scott Dam as a
foregone conclusion. The reason being salmon and steelhead are
not able to access spawning grounds above the dam. This area is
a small percentage of the overall spawning habitat of the Eel
River watershed. … A fish ladder around Scott Dam makes much
With a global pandemic, a catastrophic economic recession and
record-high unemployment, one would think the state has enough
issues to tackle. But proponents of a state water grab that I
have been fighting since the day I was sworn into office in
2012 disagree. Where others see turmoil and anguish, they see
opportunity. Apparently, they believe in the adage, “Never let
a crisis go to waste.”
A team led by a researcher from North Carolina State University
analyzed the downstream effects of a drought in California that
took place in 2012-2016, and was considered one of the worst in
the state’s history. They found that drought led to significant
increases in power costs for three major investor-owned
utilities in the state… They also found that increased
harmful emissions of greenhouse gases could be linked to
hydropower losses during drought in the future, even as more
sources of renewable energy are added to the grid.
A team led by a researcher from North Carolina State University
analyzed the downstream effects of a drought in California that
took place in 2012-2016, and was considered one of the worst in
the state’s history. They found that drought led to significant
increases in power costs for three major investor-owned
utilities in the state… They also found that increased
harmful emissions of greenhouse gases could be linked to
hydropower losses during drought in the future…
Beginning June 11, the Bureau released flows to help sustain
juvenile salmon, but it plans to provide only 16,000 of the
40,000-acre feet promised in the plan developed with the Yurok
Tribe, fishing groups and irrigators in March. And nearly a
month passed without augmented flows when young salmon were
being infected and dying from disease-causing parasites and 1.5
million hatchery fish were released and ready to pass through
the infection zone.
The first slide of Daybreak Power’s first-ever presentation to
potential investors quotes Paul Allen, the legendary co-founder
of Microsoft, asking what he calls the most exciting question
imaginable: “What should exist? … What do we need that we don’t
have?”. The answer I reached in the years leading up to
co-founding Daybreak in 2018 is this: A bunch of big-honkin’
pumped storage hydropower projects
In recognition of National Dam Safety Awareness Day, Andy
Mangney who serves as the Field Engineering Branch Chief
overseeing DSOD’s dam inspection and monitoring program, took
some time to answer questions about what DSOD is doing to
The proposed Eagle Mountain project went through nearly 10
years of regulatory review, mostly under the Obama
administration, with deep investigations of potential impacts
and subsequent requirements for some of the most stringent
mitigations ever placed on a project. … The one hitch for us?
We, the very communities who will be impacted by this project
have no real voice.
The Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule Monday
curtailing the rights of states, tribes and the public to
object to federal permits for energy projects and other
activities that could pollute waterways across the country. The
move … upends how the United States applied a section of the
Clean Water Act for nearly a half century.
When a Phoenix company floated a proposal last year to build
two hydroelectric dams on the Little Colorado River, it faced
an outpouring of opposition. … Taking note of the criticisms,
the two businessmen who run the company have pivoted to a
different approach. They propose to move the project off
the Little Colorado River to an adjacent canyon to the east,
where they would build four dams.
For Indians, confronting economic uncertainty and food
shortages has been part of life since Europeans arrived in our
lands. … This is why the Yurok Tribe is fighting so hard to
remove Klamath River dams and restore the salmon runs that have
fed our people since the beginning of time.
A partnership of numerous Northern California agencies intends
to file an initial plan to acquire the Potter Valley project
from the Pacific Gas and Electric Co., multiple sources
confirmed. The coalition will submit a document to the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission for its consideration. If
approved, the group may be able to form a partnered ownership
of complex water infrastructure dividing the Eel and Russian
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works gathered
the last few comments on Friday on its plans to move two
mammoth water infrastructure packages this year. … At the
same time, the House Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee is gearing up to introduce its own big water bill,
which should come by month’s end and be marked up over the
summer, according to a committee aide.
At the 2020 California Water Law Symposium, a panel discussed
the project. Seated on the panel was Richard Roos-Collins, a
principal with the Water and Power Law Group and General
Counsel for the Klamath River Renewal Corporation; Paul
Weiland, lawyer for Siskiyou County; and Mike Belchik, Senior
Fisheries Biologist with the Yurok Tribe.
When the Water Forum Agreement was officially signed 20 years
ago, the occasion marked an unprecedented show of regional
cooperation. For years, interests representing business, the
environment, water suppliers and others had sparred over the
water needs of people vs. the environment of the lower American
Over the past several months, the Authority has undertaken a
rigorous Value Planning effort to review the project’s proposed
operations and facilities in an effort to develop a project
that is “right sized” for current participants while still
providing water supply reliability and enhancing the
environment.The process has resulted in a project that includes
facilities and operations that are different than originally
Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) announced that it
will be upgrading the Lower Bucks Lake Dam this year by
attaching a waterproof membrane to the upstream surface of the
dam to prevent seepage and extend the dam’s service life.
Now, just as the first Earth Day in 1970 gave U.S. policymakers
a chance to chart a fresh course for conservation, this year’s
50th anniversary offers lawmakers an opportunity to act on a
growing body of evidence that free-flowing, well-protected
rivers serve the greater public good.
The Klamath River Renewal Corporation’s plans to remove four
dams on the Klamath River in the US has taken a major step
forward with the issuance of key documents from the California
State Water Board. The plan – the largest dam removal project
in the US – would re-open 360 miles of the Klamath River and
its tributaries to salmon.
The largest dam removal project in U.S. history came one step
closer to fruition this week, as California issued permits for
breaching the four dams on the Klamath River. The State Water
Resources Control Board issued a Clean Water Act certification
and environmental assessment for the proposal to remove three
dams in Northern California and one in southern Oregon.
Today, as the chief of dam safety services within the Division
of Operations and Maintenance (O&M) of California’s
Department of Water Resources (DWR), David Sarkisian guides a
team of 25 engineers that monitors, surveils, inspects and
guides the on-going maintenance of the 26 dams and reservoirs
within the California State Water Project (SWP), many of which
are more than 50 years old.
The Narrows Project was marginally economic for PG&E and is
far from PG&E’s regional hydropower headquarters. Yuba
Water, however, is a natural buyer as the agency also owns the
nearby Narrows No. 2 Powerhouse just upstream. For decades, the
two entities closely coordinated the operations of these
facilities, including the flows.
The second-largest river in California has sustained Native
American tribes with plentiful salmon for millennia, provided
upstream farmers with irrigation water for generations and
served as a haven for retirees who built dream homes along its
banks. With so many competing demands, the Klamath River has
come to symbolize a larger struggle over the increasingly
precious water resources of the U.S. West…
The falling cost of renewable energy and continued decline of
manufacturing renders many of these structures unnecessary.
Others require expensive maintenance. Seven in 10 are more than
50 years old and many are falling into disrepair, according to
the American Society of Civil Engineers…
If corporations can have the rights of people under the law,
why not rivers? The question made sense to Will Falk, and he
answered it yes. Falk is a lawyer, and he got to represent the
Colorado River in a lawsuit. So he spent time along the river,
in something of a conversation with it. Falk tells the story in
his book How Dams Fall.
Tulare County-based Kaweah River Power Authority has requested
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approval to
transfer the license for their 20MW hydroelectric plant at
Kaweah Lake’s Terminus Dam to Canadian-based Ontario Power
Tuolumne Utilities District announced on Tuesday that it has
entered into exclusive negotiations with Pacific Gas and
Electric Co. to acquire the Phoenix Hydroelectric Project,
which would include pre-1914 water rights on the South Fork of
the Stanislaus River…
A proposal to pump water out of Nevada’s fragile Walker Lake to
generate hydropower to sell in California won preliminary
approval from federal regulators. On Friday, the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission issued a preliminary permit and granting
priority to file for the proposed Walker Lake Pumped Storage
In a Feb. 28 filing, the Klamath River Renewal Corporation,
formed to shepherd the removal of four hydroelectric dams from
the Klamath River in Northeern California and Southern Oregon,
submitted key budget information to the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission. … This filing is another concrete step
toward implementing the amended Klamath Hydroelectric
Settlement Agreement (KHSA), removing the dams and restoring a
free-flowing Klamath River, KRRC officials said.
The pit was a bustling iron mine once, churning out ore that
was shipped by rail to a nearby Kaiser Steel plant. When steel
manufacturing declined, Los Angeles County tried to turn the
abandoned mine into a massive landfill. Conservationists hope
the area will someday become part of Joshua Tree National Park,
which surrounds it on three sides. Steve Lowe has a radically
Silicon Valley water officials assured the public Tuesday they
have enough water to avoid shortages this summer, even after
federal regulators announced that Anderson Reservoir, the
region’s largest, must be completely drained beginning this
fall because of the risk its dam might collapse in a major
The contraption, reminiscent of Rube Goldberg, would produce
two of Southern California’s most precious and essential
resources: water and electricity. … The idea, developed by
Silicon Valley-based Neal Aronson and his Oceanus Power & Water
venture, caught the attention of the Santa Margarita Water
District. The agency quickly saw the project’s viability to
fill a void.
Though the process leading to removal of the Klamath Dams
continues to march forward, numerous citizens in Siskiyou
County have continued fighting to keep the dams in place. Many
of those dam advocates are members of the Siskiyou County Water
Users Association, which in January hosted a presentation about
an alternative fish passage technology the association believes
could “make it possible” for the dams to remain.
State Sen. Scott Wiener will unveil legislation today to let
the state of California seize control of the embattled utility
PG&E. Wiener’s bill … would use eminent domain to force
the company’s stockholders to sell their shares to the state of
California, which would then take over operations.
Some local residents are organizing to oppose a twice-rejected
proposal for a Lake Elsinore hydroelectric plant. The Lake
Elsinore Advanced Pumped Storage project, more commonly known
as LEAPS, was tossed aside by the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission nearly a decade ago in 2011.
The main focus of the program are the barriers to fish passage
for salmon from Friant Dam to the ocean and back again. There
are three key barriers: the East Side Bypass Control Structure
which is in the flood bypass; Sack Dam, which is the intake for
Arroyo Canal for Henry Miller irrigation system; and Mendota
Dam which controls Mendota Pool. The program also needs to
ensure enough habitat for the fish when they return to complete
their life cycle,
Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Roger M. Beauchesne issued his
decision Dec. 30 in the lawsuit filed by Andrew Hobbs and Dave
Thomas. Each sued the MID in 2016, and their lawsuits were
combined into one. … Beauchesne ruled the subsidy was an
illegal tax under California law because the MID had not sought
voter approval for electric customers to subsidize irrigation
In the United States, many of the structures that were once
engineering marvels are nearing the age most humans decide to
retire. Despite steadily increased budgets for dam repair and
maintenance, over the past four decades more than a 1,000 have
failed … Although some dams are having critical maintenance
done, states and private entities are also coming up with a
different solution: take them down. California, once a
bastion of dam building, took down 35 dams just last year,
making it the leader in dam removals in 2018.
Communities sprout up and sometimes wither away, but in 1972,
the small community of Cedar Springs met its demise when it was
swallowed up by a lake. The San Bernardino Mountains community
was located at the confluence of the west fork of the Mojave
River, Sawpit Canyon, and Miller Canyon, about 4 miles
northwest of Crestline. Today, the location is under the waters
of Silverwood Lake, near the boat launch ramp.
Two wildlife advocacy groups Wednesday announced their intent
to sue the Riverside County Flood Control & Water Conservation
District, as well as other regional and federal government
agencies, for allegedly putting a fish species’ habitat at risk
with the release of water from the Seven Oaks Dam.
The Feather River Recovery Alliance has filed a motion to
intervene with the Department of Water Resources’ pending
application to re-license operation of the Oroville Dam. …
The motion requests that the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission reopen the licensing process that was conducted over
a decade ago, and prior to the community becoming aware of
safety concerns at the Oroville Dam.
CalTrout has identified Scott Dam, which impounds Eel River
water in Lake Pillsbury, as one of five aging dams it considers
“ripe for removal,” especially in the wake of PG&E’s
license surrender. There is, however, a potential middle course
backed by Friends of the Eel River, a Eureka-based nonprofit
that has long called for the dam’s removal.
Native American tribes, environmentalists, state and federal
agencies, river rafters and others say they have significant
concerns about proposals to dam a Colorado River tributary in
northern Arizona for hydropower.
Exactly what the Potter Valley Project will look like in the
future is not set in stone. The partnership is committed to
identifying solutions that meet the needs of the communities
and wildlife affected by the project’s operations.
During days when solar panels feed more energy into the grid
than utilities want to buy, the projects would use the excess
power to pump water from Walker Lake or Pyramid Lake into the
newly constructed reservoirs. Once there, the water would sit
as a giant pool of potential energy. When demand for power
increased at night as solar production waned, the water could
be released downhill and run through a power plant.
Small shallow lakes dominate the world’s freshwater area, and
the sediments within them already produce at least one-quarter
of all carbon-dioxide, and more than two-thirds of all methane
released from lakes into our atmosphere. The new research,
published in the journal PNAS, suggests that climate change may
cause the levels of greenhouse gases emitted by freshwater
northern lakes to increase by between 1.5 and 2.7 times.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spent months working with the
National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service to mitigate potential harm to endangered sucker fish in
Upper Klamath Lake, as well as threatened coho salmon in the
lower Klamath River. … However, the bureau now says it
received “erroneous data” from an outside source during
consultation, meaning it must scrap the plans and start over
Hydropower is broadly considered to be much more
environmentally friendly than electricity generated from fossil
fuels, and in many cases this is true. However, a new study
reveals that the climate impact of hydropower facilities varies
widely throughout the world and over time, with some facilities
emitting more greenhouse gases than those burning fossil fuels.
PG&E said Thursday that a small powerhouse at the reservoir
had been shut down since a canal at the reservoir had been
damaged during last winter’s storms. The utility has determined
that the costs to repair the canal “outweigh the economic
benefit of (power) generation at the Kilarc powerhouse.”
A local coalition formed in the hopes of maintaining the most
important aspects of the Potter Valley Project is making
progress toward a two-basin solution, Janet Pauli told the
Ukiah City Council at its last meeting.
The latest public relations effort cost California water
ratepayers $29,000 to produce an eight-page color advertising
insert that ran in recent days in six Sacramento Valley
newspapers including The Sacramento Bee. … Critics argue it’s
inappropriate for a state agency to be spending public money on
an advertisement that they say serves little purpose other than
to try to make the government look good.
Hydropower facilities store water in reservoirs in order to
release it in a constant flow and produce energy consistently.
If wind turbines and solar panels, paired with battery storage,
took the pressure off of these facilities to fill the needs of
the grid during a drought, more of that water could be released
downstream for agricultural use, preventing further groundwater
After touring film festivals in two dozen cities across the
country, the documentary, Visions of the Lost Sierra, will be
released online Wednesday for all to view. … Visions is a
short film exploring how the Wild and Scenic Middle Fork
Feather River has connected communities and inspired outdoor
enthusiasts for generations.
The Mojave Water Agency on Thursday cut the ribbon on its Deep
Creek Hydroelectric Clean-Energy System, a project that
produces electricity from California Aqueduct water and
replenishes the groundwater in the Victor Valley.
Today, annual salmon runs in Eel River that once may have
totaled a million or so adults consist of a few thousand.
Lamprey eels, too, have dwindled. Now, there is serious talk of
removing Scott Dam, owned by PG&E since 1930. For fishery
proponents, such a river makeover is the optimal way to revive
the Eel’s salmon runs.
The effects of the last drought are still obvious in
California’s agricultural belt. … From this perspective, the
federal government’s plan to increase the storage capacity of
Lake Shasta, created by the Shasta Dam on the Sacramento River,
is both sensible and compassionate.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation can’t charge Central Valley
Project power customers disproportionately more than water
customers in order to fund its environmental efforts, the
Federal Circuit said Nov. 6. The law requires the Bureau to
charge customers in proportion to what they pay to fund the
network of dams, reservoirs, canals, and water power plants as
a whole, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
In a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission
shared Tuesday, the mayors and city supervisors argued that
PG&E ― beset by massive bankruptcy and public outrage over
its role in deadly wildfires and mismanaged forced power
outages ― would function better as a customer-owned utility
than a business focused on paying dividends to its
Just outside Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, a
year-round, mineral-rich spring turns the Little Colorado River
a vivid turquoise. This final stretch, about 10 miles from the
river’s confluence with its larger relative, is one of the
West’s spectacular waterways, with bright water flowing below
steep red-rock cliffs. But the view will change dramatically if
a Phoenix-based company builds a proposed hydropower project.
Prior to a commission meeting earlier this year, the Commission
hadn’t met since 2010, according to Curtis Anderson, commission
member representing the California side of the river. …
“We’re seeing if we can be helpful by at least providing
information and providing an opportunity for people to raise
concerns concerning the Compact itself,” Anderson said.
The decadeslong Pacific Northwest salmon war may be nearing the
end. But it’s economics, not fish, that could be the demise of
four dams at the center of the fight. The dams on the Lower
Snake River — besieged by conservationists and biologists for
killing fish — are now battered by falling prices for renewable
energy, skyrocketing replacement costs for aging turbines and a
growing tab for environmental mitigation.
Today’s noisy partisan divide concerns me and makes the thought
of meaningful collaboration across parties seem impossible.
However, the largest river restoration project in history,
spanning the California-Oregon border, tells a hopeful story
offering a blueprint for political, conservation and economic
Warmer-than-average temperatures are forecast for much of the
U.S. this winter according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
… Drier-than-average conditions are most likely for
Louisiana, parts of Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas and
Oklahoma as well areas of northern and central California.
Aging water treatment systems, failing pipes and a slew of
unregulated contaminants threaten to undermine water quality in
U.S. cities of all sizes. … Still, with only a handful of
exceptions, “water systems aren’t designed to focus on health,
they’re focused on cost-containment,” says Seth Siegel, whose
book “Troubled Water,” released this month, examines the
precarious state of water infrastructure in the U.S.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a right-of-way grant
(ROW) Wednesday that allows for the construction of various
facilities on 711 acres east of Klamath Falls, according to a
news release. … The ROW grant is part of the Swan Lake North
Hydro LLC proposal to develop a 393.3-megawatt hydropower
The White House has begun reviewing a plan to change the way it
issues environmental permits for infrastructure projects. If
the proposal is finalized, it could speed up National
Environmental Policy Act reviews for roads, bridges, ports,
pipelines, power lines, Internet trunks, and water systems.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Critical U.S.
infrastructure is dilapidated and unsafe. Regulation is week,
and enforcement is weaker. Everyone agrees on the need for
action, and climate change will only make the problem worse.
but no one seems to do anything about it. Sadly, this has
become a familiar story. Take dams for instance.
Alicyn Gitlin, conservation coordinator for the Sierra Club’s
Grand Canyon Chapter, said the project would threaten an
endangered species, interfere with the Grand Canyon’s already
degraded hydrology and damage sites held sacred by two Arizona
Pumped Hydro Storage LLC is seeking approval from the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission to study the sites east of Grand
Canyon National Park over three years. None of it will move
forward without permission from the Navajo Nation. Navajo
President Jonathan Nez said he’s been briefed by tribal
economic development officials about the proposals — but hasn’t
talked with anyone from Pumped Hydro Storage.
A staggering number of Chinook salmon are returning to a
California river that hasn’t sustained salmon for decades due
to agricultural and urban demands, giving biologists hope that
threatened fish are finally spawning in their native
grounds without human help.
How does one achieve temperature and flow targets for listed
species with such different requirements, while also meeting
the needs of human water users? A recent study sought to
achieve an equitable solution by using a multi-objective
approach to identify trade-offs and model an optimal dam
release scenario to meet the needs of salmon, sturgeon, and
Environmental groups that have long pushed to bring down a huge
dam along the Colorado River are suing the federal government,
alleging it ignored climate science when approving a 20-year
operating plan for the dam near the Arizona-Utah border.
Anthony Burdock, Project Manager for the Isabella Dam Safety
Modification Project, presented a program outlining
catastrophic dam failures and how those failures were used to
mold the dam safety regulations that now govern the nation’s
dams, including Isabella Dam.
Following losses in court, a Fresno-based irrigation district
has backed off its plans to do an environmental study on
raising the height of Shasta Dam. The Westlands Water District
announced Monday that it has stopped working on the report
because it could not meet the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s
schedule for the project.
A Phoenix company wants to build two hydroelectric dams less
than five miles from the eastern border of Grand Canyon
National Park, submerging several miles of the Little Colorado
River and the endangered fish habitat it protects.
For years, the Interior Department resisted proposals to raise
the height of its towering Shasta Dam in Northern California.
The department’s own scientists and researchers concluded that
doing so would endanger rare plants and animals in the area…
But the project is going forward now, in a big win for a
powerful consortium of California farmers that stands to profit
Utah’s proposed Lake Powell pipeline will cost less to build
and be easier to permit under a decision announced Wednesday to
cut major hydropower components from the controversial project
that would move 86,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water to St.
A plan to remove four dams on the Klamath River – one of the
most ambitious river restoration projects ever attempted – is
either mocked or praised depending on the audience. It will
expand salmon habitat or destroy a fishery. The only certainty
is that lives will change forever.
I’m writing to express our tribe’s dismay at Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s announcement that he plans to veto Senate Bill 1. …
Vetoing this bill will green-light President Trump’s plan to
divert even more water from our struggling rivers for
industrial agriculture. Many well-respected fish biologists and
environmentalists have concluded Trump’s attempt to ignore the
best science and rewrite the rules will essentially be an
“extinction plan” for Chinook salmon and other threatened fish.
Some 45,000 to 50,000 spring-summer Chinook spawned here in the
1950s. These days, the average is about 1,500 fish, and
declining. And not just here: Native fish are in free-fall
throughout the Columbia River basin, a situation so dire that
many groups are urging the removal of four large dams to keep
the fish from being lost.
Removing the four aging hydroelectric dams from the river would
significantly improve ecological and geomorphic conditions
throughout the Klamath watershed and play a key role in
returning salmon to stable population levels.
The Round Valley Indian Tribes announced this week that they
have signed an agreement to join with users of both the Eel
River and Russian River to seek a “Two-Basin Solution” for the
re-licensing of the Potter Valley Hydroelectric Project, which
diverts water from the Eel River into the Russian River.
Water managers across the state face new and more extreme
challenges as the climate warms—from balancing the sometimes
conflicting needs of urban, agricultural, and environmental
water users to reducing risks from fires, floods, and droughts.
We talked to Grant Davis, general manager of the Sonoma County
Water Agency, about how his agency is approaching these
challenges comprehensively, at the scale of the entire
Today, the California Department of Water Resources began
assessment work on Pyramid Dam’s spillways in Los Angeles
County as part of a statewide effort to reduce seismic and
hydrologic risk to State Water Project facilities spanning 705
miles throughout California.
In the Sacramento River near Redding this spring, water
districts, government agencies and others collaborated to
construct the Market Street Gravel Project to benefit fish. …
Reclamation District 108 Deputy Manager William Vanderwaal said
that to complete the $429,000 project, 12,000 tons of gravel
were placed into the river and developed as new spawning
habitat for chinook salmon and steelhead trout.
Now, some are arguing that the bill should be stripped of its
longstanding provision applying the State’s own Endangered
Species Act to the operations of the federal Central Valley
Project. Here’s why that’s a terrible idea.
The Bonneville Power Administration, the independent federal
agency that sells the electricity produced by the dams, is
careening toward a financial cliff. BPA is $15 billion in debt,
facing a rapidly changing energy market increasingly dominated
by wind and solar and a desperate need to maintain aging
infrastructure that’s expected to cost $300 million to maintain
and upgrade by 2023.
Water users in the Colorado River Basin have survived the
drought through a combination of water storage infrastructure
and voluntary actions to protect reservoir storage and water
supply. Adoption of drought contingency plans this summer,
developed over years of collaborative negotiation, takes the
next step by implementing mandatory action to reduce risk and
protect limited water supplies.
The majestic beauty of the Sierra
Nevada forest is awe-inspiring, but beneath the dazzling blue
sky, there is a problem: A century of fire suppression and
logging practices have left trees too close together. Millions of
trees have died, stricken by drought and beetle infestation.
Combined with a forest floor cluttered with dry brush and debris,
it’s a wildfire waiting to happen.
Fires devastate the Sierra watersheds upon which millions of
Californians depend — scorching the ground, unleashing a
battering ram of debris and turning hillsides into gelatinous,
Federal scientists pulled no punches in their report: The Trump
administration’s plan to send more water to San Joaquin Valley
farmers would force critically endangered California salmon
even closer to extinction, and starve a struggling population
of West Coast killer whales.
The Lake County Board of Supervisors approved an amended
resolution Tuesday that will open the door for Lake County to
join a group vying to take over responsibility for the Potter
Valley hydroelectric project.
Westlands Water District says a preliminary injunction ordering
it to stop work on an environmental impact report may prevent
it from helping to pay for raising the height of the dam,
according to the appeal filed last week.
California’s rivers and streams have experienced enormous
changes over the past 150 years, and a warming climate brings
new challenges. We talked to Ted Grantham—a river scientist at
UC Berkeley and a member of the PPIC Water Policy Center
research network—about the state of the state’s rivers.
In a joint statement, the local utility providers announced
that the Chili Bar Hydroelectric Project — a dam, reservoir,
spillway and powerhouse that generates electricity north of
Placerville on the South Fork of the American River — would be
changing hands after SMUD’s board of directors voted Thursday
evening to greenlight the purchase.
For five decades, PG&E paid for and operated the Colgate
Powerhouse in exchange for the revenue generated by the
hydroelectric generation. But now, instead of tens of millions
of dollars flowing out to the utility, that agreement has
expired and the revenue, potentially as much as $30 million per
year, is flowing back into the Yuba Water Agency.
Removing four hydroelectric dams along the lower Klamath River
in Southern Oregon and Northern California is expected to cost
just under $434 million and could happen by 2022, according to
a new filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Environmentalists have raised concerns about the project’s
costs, and the fact that it would submerge 1,245 acres of oak
woodlands… But the Santa Clara Valley Water District, a San
Jose government agency that provides water to 1.9 million
Silicon Valley residents, says the reservoir is needed to store
more water as insurance against California’s next drought.
A plan to raise and expand California’s largest reservoir is on
hold as federal officials look for partners to share in the
$1.4 billion cost. The federal Bureau of Reclamation also must
grapple with opponents who have sued, saying the Shasta Dam
project violates state law.
Next spring, the Yurok Tribe will begin its Redwood Canoe
Adventure Tour and it will utilize six hand-crafted redwood
canoes made using traditional tribal tools and techniques. …
According to the tribe, it’s an opportunity you won’t find
anywhere else in the world due to the unique relationship
between the Yurok people and the Klamath River.
In a weather anomaly verified for the first time, a weather
station in Siskiyou County recorded the highest annual
precipitation for California’s weather season. The weather
station at Stouts Meadow, located at an elevation of 5,400 near
the headwaters of the McCloud River, recorded 126.76 inches of
precipitation for the season.
A flexible, reliable water supply is essential to California’s
economy and to the job creation and job security goals of
California’s working families. … Of all the projects vying
for California’s attention, the proposed Sites Reservoir in
Northern California offers the most tangible benefits.
It is seen as a major move from one of the world’s biggest
credit ratings agencies that could have a significant impact on
how seriously climate risk factors are viewed by financiers.
Based in California, Four Twenty Seven scores physical risks
associated with climate-related factors and other environmental
issues, including heat stress, water stress, extreme
precipitation, hurricanes and typhoons, and sea-level rise.
The Bureau of Reclamation and Valley Water released draft
environmental documents for public comment on the San Luis Low
Point Improvement Project, which addresses water delivery
interruptions and proposes to maintain reliable and
cost-effective water supply.
During a recent trip to the Trinity River, I learned about the
many challenges facing its salmon and steelhead populations.
… A holistic approach to habitat restoration doesn’t rely on
a single silver bullet solution, but applies a comprehensive
set of actions that rely on collaboration
During a recent trip to the Trinity River, I learned about the
many challenges facing its salmon and steelhead populations.
… But there is hope and evidence of progress in realizing
ecological benefits of the past. A holistic approach to habitat
restoration doesn’t rely on a single silver bullet solution,
but applies a comprehensive set of actions that rely on
collaboration between local tribes, federal and state agencies,
and local government agencies…
In the appeal, DWR included updated reimbursement requests
totaling an estimated $1.11 billion to cover costs of the
Oroville spillways emergency response and emergency recovery
efforts. Final costs won’t be known until all project work is
complete, according to DWR officials.
As a small business owner who leads fishing tours for anglers
from within and beyond the region, I understand that taking
these dams out may lead to a short-term dip in business. But
the long-term benefits of dam removal outweigh the near-term
costs to my family and my livelihood.
The latest update of the California Water Plan was released
this past week. You may not have heard the news. You may not
even know there is a California Water Plan. And that’s just
fine, because it doesn’t mean a darn thing.
While California contemplates new dams for its thirsty future,
it’s also thinking about taking out old ones. Along with
advancing plans to demolish three dams atop the Klamath River,
there’s a movement to rethink and possibly take out a water and
power dam in the Mendocino County back country.
Cities such as San Francisco want to buy assets from the
bankrupt electricity provider to control the power supply for
their communities. An amendment inserted late in the
legislative process makes those purchases more difficult by
subjecting them to the approval of state regulators.
It’s not unusual to spot the national bird flying around Lake
Oroville every summer. What’s unusual this year is the amount
currently calling Lake Oroville home. Environmental scientists
from the Department of Water Resources Oroville Field Division
are keeping an eye on seven nesting pairs of bald eagles, four
of which are successfully raising a total of eight young
The updated guide contains dozens of best practices, grouped
into 15 main categories, that water and wastewater systems can
implement to reduce security risks to their IT and OT systems.
Each recommendation is accompanied by links to corresponding
The Eel River—once home to the state’s third-largest salmon and
steelhead runs, all of which are now listed as threatened―may
see the return of healthy fisheries in coming years. A unique
opportunity to remove a dam that blocks fish from reaching
spawning habitat has arisen. We talked to Curtis Knight,
executive director of CalTrout, about the situation.
For years, the people of the Northern San Joaquin Valley have
been trying to get hydropower recognized for what it is: the
original source of clean electricity. Our efforts have been
stymied by people who feel entitled to decide what is, or
isn’t, green enough. That’s why I have begun the process of
modifying our state Constitution to recognize safe, abundant,
carbon-free hydropower as a reliable source of renewable energy
in our fight against climate change.
Your perfect river might be one where you float gently along on
inner tubes, or maybe your style is to careen through raucous
rapids in an eight-person inflatable raft. No problem.
California has got it all when it comes to river rafting, from
gentle half-day float trips for first-timers and mellow family
adventures to adrenaline-pumping, white water, multi-day
Proponents have said SB 1 will keep Trump from delivering more
water to farms, thereby harming endangered fish. That sentiment
is exactly what makes SB 1 so dangerous. It relies on the
worn-out trope that California’s water issues boil down to
“farms versus fish.”
The water is coming straight from the Sierra Nevada Mountains
and is very cold, which is causing some concerns people hoping
to get into the water. But, the water itself, when used what
it’s intended for, has a great impact in our Central Valley.
There’s a new twist in the California-Trump brawl in the state
Legislature. It’s aimed at overriding the president’s power to
weaken environmental protections. Put simply, any federal
protections President Trump tried to gut would immediately
become state regulations in their original, strong form.
If you want to dam rivers, as we were inclined across much of
the 20th century, the location of the current Parker Dam on the
Lower Colorado River makes sense – a narrow gap just downstream
from the confluence of the Colorado and Bill Williams rivers on
the Arizona-California border.
It is a telling illustration of the precarious state of United
States dams that the near-collapse in February 2017 of Oroville
Dam, the nation’s tallest, occurred in California, considered
one of the nation’s leading states in dam safety management.
On the last Saturday in June, a road in Butte County was
opened. That in itself isn’t anything unusual. Roads are opened
and closed regularly around here. But it was the significance
of this road that makes it a remarkable occurrence. It was the
road over Oroville Dam.
We need a broad portfolio of solutions that includes storage
above and below ground, conservation, and other options such as
traditional recycled and potable reuse to help ensure we can
better manage this vital resource when the next inevitable
drought comes along. … One part of that solution is the
proposed Sites Reservoir.
The Lake Hodges facility near San Diego, a relatively small 40
megawatt generating station, is one of 40 pumped storage
facilities around the United States, and its operator says it
is helping the state meet its ambitious goals. San Diego is
planning a larger system at another site, the San Vicente
reservoir, again using two water sources at different
The original treaty was implemented before the 1970 National
Environmental Policy Act, the 1973 Endangered Species Act and a
host of legal shifts that bolstered Indigenous rights… These
hallmarks of change emphasize the need to include environmental
protection and equity in an updated treaty.
The rapid proliferation of the quagga mussel has major
implications for power plant reliability. The U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation installed a groundbreaking solution at Parker Dam
in Arizona that virtually eliminated the invasive species from
hydropower cooling systems.
Since the turn of the 20th century, the Colorado River and its
tributaries have been dammed and diverted to sustain the growth
of massive cities and large-scale farming in the American
Southwest. Attempts to bend the river system to humanity’s will
have also led to all kinds of unintended consequences. In
Colorado’s Paradox Valley, those unintended consequences take
the form of earthquakes.
Oroville Dam is officially back open to the public two years
after it was forced to close due to the failure of the dam’s
main and emergency spillways. People can now walk and bike the
more than one-mile-long road across the dam crest. Public
vehicles will still not be allowed.
This week, a partnership of multiple agencies spanning three
counties along the Eel and Russian rivers will officially
launch a plan to take over operations of the Potter Valley
Project, a hydro-electric dam that affects the amount of water
in each river.