Fall whitewater boating flows are coming to the Pit River in Northern California. On June 14, 2011, FERC issued an order approving four days of recreational whitewater boating flows in the Pit 1 Bypass Reach on or before the 30th of October each year. The flows will take place annually either over two weekends in October or four consecutive days during the Columbus Day weekend. Annual flow schedules will be set each year based on river conditions, and will be available on the American Whitewater website. The flows are part of the implementation of PG&E’s hydroelectric license issued in 2003 by FERC for the Pit 1 Hydroelectric Project (FERC # 2687).
Fall 2011 flows are scheduled for October 1st/2nd and 15th/16th, and are anticipated to be around 850-950 cfs.
The Pit River provides an excellent whitewater run and offers a unique combination of geology, scenery and waterfalls. With a range of Class II to Class IV water, the area contains sections that appeal to a wide array of skill levels and has something to offer everyone. To date, operation of the Pit 1 Project has had a hefty impact on whitewater recreation in the Pit River between its confluence with the Fall River near the town of Fall River Mills and the Pit 1 Powerhouse downstream of Pit River Falls. The project diverts water from the Fall River through a tunnel and into the Pit River at the Pit 1 Powerhouse downstream. While minimum instream flows mandated by the license leave some (but not much) water for aquatic species, whitewater recreation opportunities on the reach have been decimated.
The project’s FERC license requires that whitewater boating flows be released to mitigate the loss of the recreational opportunity caused by the operation of the Pit 1 Project. Whitewater boating studies were conducted between 2003 and 2009 during summer flushing flows to determine the optimal flow levels for boating, and the information gathered during the study informs the new flows that will hopefully begin this fall.
Summer flushing flows, which improve water quality and provide additional whitewater recreation opportunities, were temporarily cancelled in 2010 and 2011 and it is uncertain whether they will continue into the future. PG&E and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are recommending that they be permanently cancelled because they claim that the flushing flows harm the endangered Shasta Crayfish. This claim, however is not based on sound science. The California State Water Resources Control Board will make the ultimate determination about whether the flushing flows are cancelled through their 401 Certification under the Clean Water Act. American Whitewater is working to support their efforts to receive the proper studies and ensure that the federal agencies use sound science when making management decisions.
In the meantime, we’re pleased that there will be four boating days instead of none on this stunning reach, and we look forward to seeing you on the Pit River! American Whitewater has been a key stakeholder in advocating for recreation flows on the Pit and numerous other rivers throughout the country. Please consider supporting our efforts by making a donation today!
Pit River above Pit 1 PH (AW#48887)
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