Cresta Flows Again! North Fork Feather 2009 (CA)

posted April 17, 2009
by Dave Steindorf

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FERC Approves New Flows For the Cresta Reach

After several years of intense debate, negotiation and collaboration, the Cresta reach will see boatable flows again this year.  The flow release will be a single pulse that will increase base flows starting on May 1st and continuing through July in a normal water year and through June in a dry year.  Flows will begin at 750 to 800 cfs and gradually ramp down to 400 cfs at the end of June or July depending on water year type. Four hundred cfs was determined to be the minimum flow acceptable for kayaks during our flow study that was conducted in 2008.  There will also be one weekend release of 1200 cfs the first weekend in May. This release will begin at 12:00 noon on Saturday and continue until 12:00 noon on Sunday. The full flow schedule is posted below.  Currently we are in a dry water year forecast.   This forecast will be revised in May and set for the rest of the year.

The new flow regime was designed largely to be more protective of Foothill Yellow-Legged Frogs, whose numbers in the Cresta reach have grown very low over the last several years. While some parties have attributed this decline to mid and late summer boating releases, the largest demonstrated impact to the frogs on the NF Feather came on the Poe reach in 2006, when spill conditions were followed an abrupt drop to low base flows. 40 frog egg masses were left high and dry in this drop, and thus perished. Higher base flows, such as those in the new flow schedule for Cresta, would have kept the river higher coming off of spill conditions, drying out fewer egg masses and improving chances of frog survival.

 

Working with Forest Service, Department of Fish and Game, California State Water Resources Control Board, California Sport Fishing Protection Alliance and PG&E, we were able to craft this new flow schedule that is more protective of frogs, mimics the natural flows of the river and provides for whitewater recreation.   Restoring more natural flows in rivers is one of American Whitewater’s top river priorities of 2009 (see AW Journal January/ February 2009).  Getting this new flow schedule approved and in place is an important milestone in achieving this goal, not only for the Feather River but rivers across California and across the country.

Cresta Flow Schedule

    
Wet and Normal Water Years   
In May, flows shall increase to 800 cfs from May 1 through May 7 with an additional increase to 1200 cfs for 24 hours the first weekend in May from noon Saturday until noon Sunday.  If May 1 is a Sunday the 1200 cfs flow shall take place starting May 7 with flows reduced to 600 cfs after noon on May 8.   Flows will remain at 600 cfs until May 31st. Flows will be at 500 cfs for the month of June and 400 cfs for the July.

Dry Water years
In May, flows shall increase to 750 cfs from May 1 through May 7 with an additional increase to 1200 cfs for 24 hours the first weekend in May from noon Saturday until noon Sunday.  If May 1 is a Sunday the 1200 cfs flow shall take place starting May 7 with flows reduced to 500 cfs after noon on May 8. Flows will remain at 500 cfs until May 31st. Flows will be at 400 cfs for the month of June.

Critically Dry Water Years
 In April, a boating flow of 600 cfs shall be provided on the third Saturday in April (from 8am  Saturday morning until 5pm Sunday evening).  
 

Dave Steindorf
4 Baroni Drive
Chico, CA 95928
Phone: 530-343-1871