Many of you have said that you do not feel technically qualified to make comments. In order to assist you in this process I asked our attorney to draft a letter that you can print and send or cut and paste into an email. Clicking on this link (Water Board Comments) will take you to the letter.
If you have not as yet sent comments I urge you to take this opportunity to assist in our effort to Save Lake Almanor!
There will be a Town Hall Meeting here in Chester on 11 February 1015 at the Veterans Memorial Hall, 225 Gay Street, Chester starting at 6:00 pm. Representatives from PG&E will be presenting information on the operation of Lake Almanor/Butt Lake. This presentation will be immediately followed by a PUBLIC HEARING conducted by the Water Board where they will take comments from the public regarding the DEIR and the proposed alternatives.
With the release of the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) by the State Water Resources Control Board, THERMAL CURTAINS in Lake Almanor and Butt Lake are nearing a reality!
The DEIR identifies two alternatives for cooling the water in the Feather River below Lake Almanor. Both alternatives include the use of thermal curtains in Lake Almanor at the Prattville outlet and at Butt Lake. We only have until noon on 26 March to provide the Water Board with comments regarding the DEIR!
I know we are all concerned about the serious, adverse impacts of these recommendations. However, most will not take the initiative to write out comments by letter or email. It is extremely important that the Water Board hear from us!!
I cannot overemphasize the importance of your attendance and comment at this meeting. People, you have the power to change the direction the Water Board is heading! Please show up, participate and get the word out to everyone you know.
Folks it has been 12 years since PG&E started their re-licensing process for the Upper North Fork Feather River Hydroelectric Project, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Project # 2105.
This re-licensing requires a Section 401 Water Quality Certification from State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). We have been waiting NINE long years for the SWRCB to release their Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR). The report was finally released 26 Nov 14, it examines two alternatives for cooling water to a maximum of 20 degrees Celsius at the Rock Creek/Cresta reaches of the Feather River (about 40 miles below Lake Almanor). Both alternatives call for a variety of actions to take cold water from Lake Almanor; both include installation of thermal curtains in Almanor and Butt Lake.
While staff recommendations do not call for immediate installation of the curtains; they instead recommend a form of adaptive management using increased cold water releases from Canyon Dam outlet between June and September each year. SWRCB staff also recommends the Water Board reserve the option to install thermal curtains in the future should the adaptive management practices not prove effective in reducing downstream temperatures. We have always taken the position that removal of cold water from Lake Almanor will have many and lasting negative impacts.
The goal of reducing downstream water temperatures was developed as part of a negotiated settlement reached in 2001 during the re-licensing of Rock Creek/Cresta License # 1962. It required that “reasonable” attempts would be made to meet the proposed water temperature (max 20 degrees Celsius) in the Feather River.
A number of excellent resources are available if you wish to learn more about the thermal curtains, cold water issues and the Project 2105 process through the years. An excellent website, maintained by Bob Lambert, is www.project2105.org. Another website, maintained by Wendi Durkin of Save Lake Almanor, is www.savelakealmanor.org. I urge you to visit these websites; they contain tremendous historical data and documentation and they will be updated as new information becomes available. Of course, I will be posting information on my website (www.almanorpost.com) as well. For reference: Issues_Project 2105.
Our local population has changed dramatically over the years since the start of this re-licensing process. Many are not familiar with the potential impacts of removal of our limited cold water pool, the thermal curtain, etc. We only have until 26 March 15 to submit comments on the DEIR – Now is the time to get educated and take action!
Tampering with very sensitive ecological systems, given the uproar over climate change and the panic precipitated by drought, does not make sense!
TIME LINE FOR 2105 Re-licensing
2002 – PG&E files application for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license
2004 – PG&E old license expires – now operating under year to year extensions
2004 – Settlement Agreement reached, signed by stakeholders, not signed by SWRCB
For a number of years the Water Quality Subcommittee of the Lake Almanor Watershed Group (LAWG), formerly known as the Almanor Basin Watershed Advisory Committee (ABWAC), has contracted for water quality testing at Lake Almanor. These efforts have been funded by contributions from our local homeowner associations and concerned residents. Recently we were successful in recruiting Scott McReynolds of the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to conduct this testing at no cost to our local community. The program has been significantly expanded, including a monitoring broad array of elements.
The DWR folks identified a need for water temperature data to correlate with the other data they will be gathering. This required a buoy to be placed in a deep water area of the lake. I am pleased to announce that the buoy is in place and ready to provide the location for DWR’S temperature monitoring “logger” string.
I have to say the buoy placement was a huge cooperative effort and I want to acknowledge those who played such a valuable part in it becoming a reality. First and foremost, the cooperation we received from PG&E was phenomenal. Joe Wilson & Scott Perkins managed to grant permission for placement and produced a permit in record time. The Plumas County Sheriff and his boat patrolman Rich Ross provided the means to locate the perfect spot via their boat, outfitted with depth & GPS gear. Aaron Seandal, Chair of the Water Quality Subcommittee, submitted the required permit information back to PG&E so that we could move forward with placement. Doug Maxfield of Big Valley Divers, Inc. made time in his busy schedule to acquire the buoy & related rigging, deploying it in position so that we could start accumulating the necessary data in conjunction with our other monitoring protocol. And, last but certainly not least, a huge THANK YOU goes to Jeff Greening who spearheaded and coordinated the entire effort!
It is great to see such a spirit of cooperation. As our lake levels rise and fall throughout the year (see the 2014 Projected Water Levels graphic), this information will give us a much clearer picture of water quality and temperature and how it impacts Lake Almanor. As Gary Freeman’s climatology data indicates, the character of the Almanor Basin and Feather River Watershed is changing. All of us, the residents of the Almanor Basin and PG&E, will benefit from this effort for many years to come. THANK YOU to everyone who made this possible!
Gary J. Freeman, Hydrologist, has been studying and tracking climatology and changes in the Upper Feather River Watershed for many years. He recently presented a paper at the annual Western Snow Conference and has made that information available to us.
He points out: “while warming along with an earlier snowmelt has been occurring throughout California, the relatively low mountain elevation, “rain shadowed” topography of the upper North Fork Feather River has been more sensitive to the effects of climate change compared with the remainder of the Sierra Range to the south. The changes are very specific to topography. Even within the entire North Fork Feather River watershed above Lake Oroville, the Hwy 70 Canyon sidewater inflow area near Rock Creek, Cresta and Bucks Creek power houses, including the Bucks Lake-Grizzly drainage show little change, while the “rain shadowed-mountain barrier blocked” Lake Almanor and East Branch of the North Fork Feather appear to be on the other end of the “change scale”.
Take a minute to enjoy his observations and some excellent slides showing our trends over a period of years. After all; we may be in a drought now but come winter, we may experience an abundance of moisture brought to us by El Nino.
Today a friend sent an interesting article from the Wall Street Journal with this notation:
“You gotta love it – drought’s bad, rain’s bad, snow’s … The bureaucrats had better get going on the theft of water rights, boondoggle / pork laden projects …; this is bad news for their agenda! But wait – it’s just another phase of decades worth of cycles?”
I would say I have to agree with his comment. One minute we are anticipating food shortages and huge price increases due to the drought; the next minute we are to worry because the El Nino will cause all kinds of shortages and drive prices up. Meanwhile our State officials are proposing any number of Water Bond issues to raise funds to fight the drought and reducing or totally eliminating water deliveries to farmers and ranchers. Guess the State will continue to utilize whatever emergency allows them to change water laws they have wanted to change for years.
“Never let a good crisis go to waste.” – Winston Churchill
Mother Nature has a way of doing whatever she wants, whenever she wants. Weather is cyclical; I blogged a three-part series (Water) in anticipation of just this – “Markets Gird for Return of El Niño”! It would be good to get to the point where we are not always reacting to crisis and could take the time to plan well for change, remembering that we have spells of floods and drought and need to be prepared to deal with both.
In September 2013 the Almanor Basin Watershed Advisory Committee (ABWAC) changed from being an advisory committee to the Plumas County Board of Supervisors to a working group under the umbrella of the Sierra Institute. In order to reflect this change in status the group has changed its name to the Lake Almanor Watershed Group (LAWG). This change in status frees up the group to take on worthwhile projects in the Almanor watershed rather than being restricted to an advisory role.
At their most recent meeting the group received good news from Scott McReynolds, Northern Region, Department of Water Resources (DWR). McReynolds informed the group that DWR will be taking over responsibility for water quality testing at Lake Almanor. Over past few years this testing program has been funded through the generous support of Lake Almanor residents. LAWG is very fortunate to have the attendance and participation of Scott McReynolds in their work and we look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with him.
McReynolds took the opportunity to provide the group with a briefing on the DWR Drought Management Team’s “Talking Points” (PDF Uploaded Link), including their activities in response to the current California drought. The paper covers DWR’s evaluation of current conditions, listings of the latest announcements by DWR and State Water Resources Control Board along with excellent links to numerous sites dealing with various aspects of drought response, data and maps, NOAAs Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service Precipitation Analysis and much more.
We have all heard panic in the voices of news casters, politicians, and our neighbors as they discuss drought conditions and the dire future predicted for this next year. I think it is important to remember that weather in California tends to cycle fairly regularly between periods of dry years followed by severe flood conditions. Reaction to these cyclical phenomena tends to be of a knee jerk variety. We have experienced a relatively benign climate in the past century and tend to forget alternating periods of drought and flood in our past. It pays to take a look at these changes over a period of years; and to educate ourselves as to the history of California in terms of climate, population settlement and growth.
The California Water & Environment Modeling Forum report of 23 April 2013 has valuable information, charts and graphs tracking precipitation, snow levels and temperature for periods of years. Take a look; I think you will find there is a pattern to what appears to have no pattern.
Another interesting source is the California Water Blog showing a photo of Folsom Lake in 1976 with an excellent discussion of water issues faced by California.
I highly recommend two books providing great insight to water and the part it has played in early California settlement, more recent developments and a glimpse into the future. The first is “Cadillac Desert” by Marc Reisner. First published in 1986, revised and updated in 1993, the work was considered the “definitive work on the West’s water crisis” (Newsweek).
The second book I highly recommend is “The West Without Water” by B. Lynn Ingram and Frances Malamud-Roam. B. Lynn Ingram is a Professor of Earth and Planetary Science and Geography at the University of California, Berkeley. Frances Malamud-Roam is Associate Environmental Planner and Biologist at Caltrans and a visiting scholar in the above Department at Berkeley. This book takes a look at our current water crisis from a paleoclimatologist (climate history) point of view. It provides a look at climate and weather of the past and, more importantly, looks into the future of water in California.
We have just experienced two days of fairly heavy rain with more predicted in the next week. Yesterday there were flood warnings in parts of the valley and our neighboring communities. Who can predict what the rest of February and March will bring???
WATER, WATER, WATER or the lack thereof is a major concern in California. The Governor’s Declaration of a State of Emergency on 17 Jan 14 triggered reactions supposedly designed to address drought issues at every level of government. Our Congressmen and Legislative representatives seem to be in a competition to determine who can be first to get legislation passed to save us from this terrible drought.
We cannot control our weather and there is no doubt that thus far we have seen a number of dry years. California climatic conditions have been tracked and studied for over a century. The collected data shows that for the most part California is an arid region prone to sometimes lengthy periods of drought punctuated with intense storms giving rise to severe flooding. Over the years we have managed to dam most of our rivers, create diversion canals and do just about everything known to man to control and impound every available drop of surface water.
However, most of the water flowing into California reservoirs comes from a very few watershed areas. When those areas experience dry periods the reservoirs will not fill. Sounds fairly basic; yet we continue to periods of panic every few years as these reservoirs do not fill. It is interesting to note that most of our reservoirs were actually constructed as flood control projects and perhaps a benefit to this period of intense activity will be the realization that we need to build some redundancy into our water control systems.
BEWARE! My deepest concern is government’s propensity for overreaction. Regulations and legislation passed in a panic situation rarely result in good outcomes and frequently have far reaching unanticipated consequences. With the State of Emergency Declaration legislation will be passed, safeguards will be waived, rights will be abrogated and another level of bureaucracy will be created. A quote from Winston Churchill seems appropriate; “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. An example is Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) reaction to our drought. In their letter of 6 Feb 14, FERC offers, among other things, the following: “In order to assist the licensees of hydropower projects in responding to the drought conditions, staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is prepared to act swiftly to review requests to amend licenses on a temporary or longer-term basis, as appropriate, in order to conserve water resources at FERC-licensed hydroelectric projects.” (read more) So….Does this mean all the agreements and regulations put in place during a relicensing project don’t count? Who knows? FERC’s action could have benefits to Lake Almanor and the 2105 Project or it could produce harmful results.
Plumas County has formed a Drought Task Force to address the current situation as it impacts Plumas County. Supervisor Terry Swofford and I are the Board of Supervisors representatives on this task force. I volunteered to participate in this effort because I want to be sure any actions Plumas County takes are well thought out and address real problems. Our first meeting is scheduled for Monday (10 Feb 14). As I write it is snowing with snow and rain predicted for the next 10 days. I am remembering February & March 2011; perhaps we will need to be shoveling snow and/or looking at flood conditions? Remember, dry periods and flooding periods are all part of the normal cycle in beautiful California!
Stay tuned for information as our task force moves forward.
Governor Jerry Brown declared a state drought emergency for California last week – California Governor Declares Drought. So far we are experiencing one of the driest winters on record following two dry years resulting in depleted reservoirs state wide. State officials were ordered to take all necessary actions to prepare for drought conditions. Gov. Brown called on all residents to reduce water usage by 20%.
As water becomes scarce issues of water rights will become more prominent. I have posted an excellent article by Brian Morris, Siskiyou County Council, and previously Plumas County Flood Control District Manager – WATER RIGHTS – Brian Morris. This article provides an excellent overview of water rights, who has them and what could preempt them.
Direct impacts of the drought and the Governor’s declaration on Plumas County and the Almanor Basin are as yet unknown. I will be posting information regarding water issues as they develop in the coming months.