The Pit River experienced the first whitewater release this past weekend as part of the new license for PG&E’s Pit 3, 4, 5 hydroelectric project. This section of the Pit River, which is below the Pit 5 dam, is located about an hour East of Redding in the small town of Big Bend in Northern California. “This is one of the best Class IV runs in California”, stated Jim Pepin, long time Redding resident and mainstay of the Northern California boating community. Eleven years ago, Pepin participated in the flow study that was part of the relicensing process for this project. As with so many efforts, this success comes after many years of hard work and persistence on the part of AW staff and volunteers.
American Whitewater’s efforts began in 2000 when we requested that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) require PG&E to do a whitewater flow study in order to determine the appropriate flows for whitewater recreation. FERC agreed with our request and the flow study was conducted in 2002. After completing the study, we spent the next two years negotiating the flow schedule with PG&E, resource agencies and other stakeholder groups. FERC finally issued the new license in 2007, but we still had to wait 3 years while PG&E upgraded their flow release infrastructure at each of their dams, and then another 3 years for the gathering of baseline biological data before releases were allowed to take place. So, after 13 years and hundreds hours spent by American Whitewater staff and volunteers, paddlers finally got to enjoy the free flowing Pit River.
The Pit 5 reach will be flowing again on September 7 and 8. This is just one of many rivers that are flowing in California because of flow agreements that American Whitewater has negotiated. On August 18, the Horseshoe Bend run on the San Joaquin will flow for the first time. The North Fork Feather River will be flowing in August and September, and the Pit 1 reach (which is upstream from Pit 5) , will be flowing in October. Information on these releases, and other releases from across the Country are available on the Release Calendar on the American Whitewater website.