Yuba River relicensing: TU comments

Yuba River Chinook salmon. Photo: Jacob Katz

On August 25, a coalition of conservation and recreational groups, including Trout Unlimited, submitted formal comments on proposed requi

rements for relicensing dam and diversion operations on the Yuba River, one of California’s most important—and degraded—river systems for salmon and steelhead. Coupled with two other major developments in California water policy and management over the past week, the comments from the Foothill

s Water Network (FWN) on the Yuba River Development Project represent significant progress in Central Valley salmon and steelhead conservation.

The other developments include collaborative efforts to improve habitat conditions for salmon and steelhead in Central Valley rivers and their tributaries through both flood protection planning and a new, formal partnership between resource agencies, water providers, conservation groups and fishing advocates called the Central Valley Salmon Habitat Partnership. TU’s California Science team led by Rene Henery, PhD, played a lead role in realizing both of these outcomes.

TU and other members of FWN have been engaged for several years in relicensing discussions with the Yuba County Water Agency and federal and state resource agencies. These negotiations have helped the relicensing parties resolve several issues, including improved access to and information for recreational users of the Yuba River, and improving habitat conditions below the Our House and Log Cabin Diversion Dams through maintenance of minimum flows and controlled spill.

Fishing the lower Yuba. Photo: Jon Baiocchi/Baiocchi’s Troutfitters

However, the FWN participants have not been able to reach agreement with YCWA on proposed actions for below Englebright Dam. The group’s recent filing thus contains recommendations that will improve flow and habitat conditions in the lower Yuba River, as well as recommended steps for further improving cold water habitat conditions and recreational access.

Among the 15 specific recommendations offered by FWN are: implementation of FWN’s lower Yuba River Flow and Habitat Recommendations (a balanced approach to restore habitat conditions and improve salmonid populations without substantial impacts to Project operations); implementation of FWN’s Fish Passage Recommendation (would incorporate Englebright Dam as a Project work and decide the unresolved issue of the Commission’s authority to require mitigation for Project impacts on fish passage); and, formation of the Yuba River Development Project Ecological Group as the primary forum to conduct post-licensing monitoring, research and consultation.

TU will continue to be closely engaged with FWN, YCWA, and other stakeholders as the Yuba River Development Project proceeds, and remains focused on improving habitat, fish passage, and angling opportunities both below and above the Yuba River dams. To read the TU/FWN comments in full, click here: FWNREAComments_FINAL2.pdf.

Foothills Water Network includes Trout Unlimited, Adventure Connection, American Rivers, American Whitewater, California Outdoors, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Friends of the River, Gold Country Fly Fishers, Northern California Council Federation of Fly Fishers, Sierra Club, South Yuba River Citizens League, and Tributary Whitewater Tours.

By Sam Davidson.