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Posted: 07/23/2018
by Pricilla Macy

American Whitewater is advocating for improved access conditions at New Bullards Bar Dam on California’s Yuba River. Access to the sections of whitewater below New Bullards Bar Dam involves putting in at the base of the Dam; a 0.75-mile-long, paved, private, gated road (posted “No Trespassing”) accesses the base of New Bullards Bar Dam.  Absent legal access below the Dam, boaters are required to hike around the dam, scramble down a steep and unstable hillside or to hike in from side roads, which Yuba County Water Agency (YWCA) considers as trespassing on their lands.
This power project is presently up for relicensing, AW has been actively involved in negotiating improved flows and better access for the past eight years. Recently the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has issued its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). Fortunately, and as a result  of comments from AW, our members, along with state and federal resource agencies, the DEIS for the FERC relicensing includes many components that will directly benefit whitewater boaters. 
Relevant River Reaches:
These benefits include substantial improvements to flows and access where we have come to agreement with YCWA. One area where we have not reached agreement is in allowing public access below New Bullards Bar Dam. Together, with our partners from the Foothills Water Network we are using the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s hydropower relicensing process to champion for safe recreational access at New Bullards Bar Dam. 
The good news is that FERC in the DEIS has agreed that access to the North Yuba is appropriate. In the DEIS FERC states:
“Providing vehicular access as the agencies and FWN recommend would be reasonable because it appears that: (1) access is likely constraining river-based recreation; (2) providing public vehicular use on the access road can be provided concurrent with providing security at project infrastructure; and (3) improved access is necessary to support whitewater boating and other river-based recreation uses downstream of New Bullards Bar Dam.”
Despite FERC’s analysis, YCWA has still voiced concerns that whitewater access at New Bullards Bar Dam would pose a threat to dam security and the Yuba County Sheriff cited that access would cause an increase in swiftwater rescue situations.  To our knowledge, there has not been a single incident with a whitewater boater on these sections of the Yuba that has required assistance from Search & Rescue or the local Sheriff's office. We also do not believe that the concern about security is reasonable, as the gate does not protect critical infrastructure below the dam and there is a public road that runs across the top of the dam.  If YCWA is concerned about dam safety, it would not be unreasonable to have Dam employees or contracted staff to monitor the recreation access areas to ensure all users were compliant with any security related restrictions (i.e not crossing over fences, entering restricted areas, etc.). 
Without improved and ensured access below New Bullards Bar Dam, this section of the North Yuba will effectively be closed to the public.  The access measures outlined in the DEIS are intended to provide for safe recreational access for whitewater and other recreational users of the river. 
It’s time to put on record that a safe river access at New Bullards bar Dam for the Yuba River is important to you. Please take the time to send in your comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by Monday, July 30th.
Submit your comment to FERC using the “eComment” system, which takes a couple of steps to complete.
After filling out your name, address, and email, the eComment system will send you an email with a link to submit your comment. Comments through this system must be text-only and under 6,000 characters. The Yuba River Development Project’s docket number is P-2246-065 and this must be entered in the relevant field.
Dear Secretary Bose,
I am a whitewater boater that enjoys the challenges and beauty of paddling the Yuba River, accessed below New Bullards Bar Dam. I am writing to provide comments regarding the proposed measures for the whitewater access at New Bullards Bar Dam, as outlined in the DEIS for The Yuba River Development Project .

(Fill in your own paddling experience on this run i.e. uniqueness of the run, limited opportunities to access this run & any difficulties at put-in)

There have been recent concerns regarding an increase in swift water rescue situations should access be granted below New Bullards Bar Dam. It has been my experience that whitewater boaters who boat this section of the Yuba River are properly equipped and sufficiently skilled to do this run safely. To my knowledge, there has not been a recent incident with a whitewater boater on this section of the Yuba that has required assistance from Search & Rescue or the local Sheriff's office.
Currently, it is the limited access that provides the most significant safety hazard to whitewater boaters, requiring those wanting to access the river below New Bullards Bar Dam to lower boats and hike down an unstable and steep hillside or risk trespassing through Yuba County Water Agency (YWCA) lands.
I support FERC’s assessment in the DEIS that safe access for whitewater boaters below and around New Bullards Bar Dam is appropriate. At a minimum, there should be access ensured below New Bullards Bar Dam that meets these objectives:
●   Motorized vehicle access to the river;
●   Adequate and safe parking;
●   A trail for pedestrian access from the parking area to the river;
●   If necessary, YCWA should provide staffing at New Bullards Bar Dam during whitewater flow days to address concerns about security at the dam site.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide comment.

Associated Rivers

Yuba, Middle Fork CA
Yuba, Middle Fork CA