Comments on the Borel Hydroproject, Kern River (CA)
By: John Gangemi
American Whitewater and the Sierra Club River Touring Chapter filed comments on Southern California Edison’s (SCE) new license application for the Borel Hydroelectric Project located on the Kern River directly downstream of Isabella Reservoir. The Borel Project diverts up to 600 cfs from the Kern river for power generation. This dewaters an eight mile Class II-III whitewater reach.The Borel reach is utilized by both private and commercial boaters. When there is sufficient flow in this bypassed reach resulting from unpredictable spill commercial boaters tend to do two-day overnight trips linking into the Democrat reach below the powerhouse for an 18-mile river trip.
In their license application SCE proposes to augment spill flows up to 450 cfs within a specified range from 10 AM to 1 PM June 1 to Labor Day. That range has not been defined because SCE failed to do a whitewater flow study for the Borel reach despite repeated requests from. American Whitewater and the Sierra Club. Recognizing their error SCE promised to complete a Controlled Flow Whitewater Study in June 2004. Earlier attempts to conduct a Controlled Flow Whitewater Study in July 2003 were terminated prematurely due to the lack of cooperation from the “Water Master” controlling the gates at Isabella Dam.
American Whitewater and the Sierra Club hope to reach a final agreement for the flow augmentation proposal for inclusion in the new license. This augmentation plan will greatly enhance whitewater opportunities in the Kernville area creating a predictable summer schedule for intermediate paddlers and commercial users alike as well as complimenting the recently won whitewater schedule for the Kern River No. 3 hydropower project upstream.