New Flows For the San Joaquin

posted April 19, 2007
by Dave Steindorf

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On Thursday April 12, 2007, California Stewardship Director Dave Steindorf and AW volunteer Paul Martzen, attended the signing ceremony for the Big Creek Settlement agreement on the Southern California Edison (SCE) projects of the San Joaquin River.  Steindorf, who was asked to speak at the event, said “We applaud Southern California Edison’s willingness to combine these projects into a single relicensing process”. With over twenty reservoirs, forebays and diversions the four separate FERC licenses encompassed in the Big Creek relicensing make up the largest geographic area of any project that has been relicensed in California. “SCE has saved years and millions in ratepayer dollars by relicensing all of the projects in this watershed at one time”.

American Whitewater has worked diligently with Sate and Federal Agencies to restore a more natural flow regime on the San Joaquin River.  It has been our goal to create new flow conditions on the San Joaquin for these projects that will benefit both the aquatic ecosystem and river recreation.

The best example  of flows that are good for boaters and biota are the channel maintenance flows, which will occur in the spring.  These flows will occur on the Florence Lake to Mono Hot Springs run on the South Fork of the San Joaquin between June 1 and July 7th.  During Wet years these flow will last for at least 13 days and have flow between 500 and 700 cfs for at least five days.  In Above Normal Water Years, flows in the same range will occur for a minimum of four days.   Pre-spill releases will provide additional boating opportunity below Mammoth Pool Reservoir.  These pre-spill releases will correct the problem that has plagued Whitewater boater in this basin for years.  Even in wet years little boating opportunity has existed on this project because flows will typically change from too low up to level that are too high in a very short time.  By releasing water ahead of spill events paddlers can take advantage of this more gradual up ramp on the whitewater runs below Mammoth Pool.   We also believe that these more gradual flow increases are more protective of the ecosystem.  

Probably the biggest impediment to boating on any river is being able to know what the flows are while you are still sitting at home.  Driving an hour or more to a river just to find that the flows are too low or too high is an expensive proposition.  Fortunately, SCE has not only agreed to provide flow information but they have agreed to do it now!  Gauges for both the Florence to Mono, Tied For First, as well as several other runs are now on the AW river pages. We appreciate SCE providing this information ahead of the new license.  If they had chosen to wait until the new license was issued we could be waiting several years to get real-time flow information on these runs.

This is the third settlement that AW Stewardship Director Steindorf  has signed this year, a remarkable achievement  given that each of these processes takes at  least seven years to complete.  AW has been involved in more than 15 hydro projects across the state in the past ten years,  this is more than any other non-profit in California.  While we have signed some landmark agreements in these past ten years, some of the most important river resources in the state have yet to go through this process, including, the Yuba and McCloud Rivers.  We also have spent a tremendous amount of time protecting the agreements that we have already made, on rivers such as the Feather and the Pit.  Without your support, future victories and maintaining ones from the pass will not be possible.  Please send your support and the support of anyone who love's rivers, and we will keep getting it done.
Dave Steindorf
4 Baroni Drive
Chico, CA 95928
Phone: 530-343-1871