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Poe Hydo Project, North Fork Feather River (CA)

Posted: 02/20/2004
by John Gangemi

Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) is seeking a 30 to 50 year license for their Poe Hydroelectric Project on the North Fork Feather River.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently accepted PG&E's license application thereby triggering a two environmental review of the application.  Regulatory procedures under the Federal Power Act require that the environmental review of the license application contain a complete factual record for making resource decisions.  To ensure that the record is complete the FERC requested resource agencies and the public to file additional studies necessary before the environmental review process was initiated.  On February 17, 2004, American Whitewater Western Conservation and Access Director, John Gangemi, submitted additional study needs to the FERC for the Poe Hydropower Project.  In short, American Whitewater requested comparative ecological studies designed to monitor the effects of whitewater flows on aquatic resources as compared to routine impacts from hydropower operations.  In addition, American Whitewater requested PG&E quantify whitewater use of the Poe reach under optimum boating flow regimes.

 

The Poe Hydropower Project dewaters nine miles of the North Fork Feather River. This nine-mile dewatered reach known as the Poe reach contains two distinct whitewater reaches: a 4.5 mile Class IV-V reach and a 4.5 mile Class III reach.  An access point at the halfway point provides a clean break between the two reaches.  Both reaches offer scenic paddling in a Sierra foothill ecotype with outstanding geologic formations.  In May 2000, American Whitewater conducted a Controlled Flow Whitewater Study with local boaters.  Those boaters

 

The Poe Hydropower Project is located just downstream of the Rock Creek-Cresta hydropower project.  Whitewater releases now occur monthly June through October on the Rock Creek and Cresta Reaches as a result of American Whitewater's role in that relicense proceeding.  The Rock Creek and Cresta releases are immensely popular attracting 300 to 500 paddlers per release.  Clearly there is a demand for whitewater paddling opportunities on the North Fork Feather River.  American Whitewater is working to add additional whitewater reaches on the North Fork Feather through the Poe hydropower relicense proceeding and on the Belden Reach dewatered by the Upper North Fork Hydropower Project. 

 

Relicensing a hydroelectric project requires a 5.5 year regulatory process overseen by the FERC.  This 5.5 year process contains multiple opportunities for public input with each opportunity building off the previous step.  This relicense process presents the only opportunity to evaluate and change instream flows in stream reaches dewatered by power generation.  American Whitewater, recognizing this valuable opportunity to restore instream flows and lost whitewater recreation opportunities for the public, dedicates considerable staff time to hydropower relicense proceedings across the country.  Over the past ten years American Whitewater has restored whitewater flows to formally dewatered reaches across the country. 

 

Posting these comments is part of an effort to make our conservation and access work more transparent to members, American Whitewater staff are posting formal filings in hydro proceedings and access issues on the website.  Our intent is to make our work products more accessible to members for educational purposes and inspiration to fellow river protection advocates.   Feel free to contact staff if you want to learn more about FERC filing procedures or discuss staff's current projects.