Long Time Coming: Whitewater Releases on the Poe Section of the NF Feather (CA)!

posted December 20, 2018
by Evan Stafford

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On December 17th 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a new license for the Poe hydroelectric project on the North Fork Feather River (CA).  This event has been long awaited by American Whitewater. AW first started working on this relicensing back in 2000. The license has been  stalled out at the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) for the past decade. The SWRCB holds the keys to what is typically the last step in the FERC relicensing process, a Water Quality Certification. The certification, a part of the Clean Water Act is important for maintaining water quality and was finally issued allowing for releases to begin February 2019. The new license for the Poe project includes up to a ten-fold increase in flow releases from the current 50 cfs requirment.  Flows will depend on the Water Year Type, as shown in the table at the bottom of the page. 
 
The new base flows will make this reach of the North Fork Feather River boatable most years, particularly in the summer months.  Additionally, the license requires 6000 acre feet of water to be provided for recreation releases.  This equates to approximately 10 days of releases at 1200 cfs. The timing of these releases will be constrained by the needs of the Foothill Yellow Legged Frogs, a Forest Service species of concern that reside in this reach.  Flow releases will most likely be limited to the late fall through the early spring. The new base flows will be implemented in Febuary 2019.  The release schedule will be developed in 2019 and flows will likely occur in 2020.
 
The runs on this section of the North Fork Feather consist of the upper run, Poe Dam to Bardees Bar, and the lower run, Bardees Bar to the Poe Powerhouse. The upper run is a class V affair. This section is in a steep walled gorge and has numerous class IV and V rapids.  The lower run is a bit easier, mostly class III with a few class IV rapids.  The entire section has a more remote feel than most of the North Fork Feather, as the river drifts away from highway 70 before being consumed by Oroville Reservoir. 
 
The license also contains a number of recreational improvements, including flatwater paddling access to Poe Reservoir, restrooms and improved parking at all of the river access locations. In total, this new license is a substantial improvement over the conditions that have existed in this stretch  of the North Fork Feather for the past 60 years. This is the latest success for American Whitewater in our efforts to restore the North Fork Feather, an effort that began over twenty years ago.  This new license, combined with the Rock Creek and Cresta project releases upstream, and the new license for the Upper North Fork Feather (hopefully to be released in the next two years) will make the Feather one of the best paddling destinations in the Country and restore the ecosystem of this great river.
 

Table 1. Minimum Instream Releases (cfs) from 

Poe Dam as measured at Gage 231

Month

Water Year Type2

Wet

Normal

Dry

Critically Dry

October

250

250

180

180

November

275

275

180

180

December

300

300

180

180

January

325

300

180

180

February

350

325

225

225

March

350

350

300

300

April

400

400

325

300

May

500

400

350

300

June

500

400

350

300

July

500

400

350

300

August

500

400

350

300

 

Dave Steindorf
4 Baroni Drive
Chico, CA 95928
Phone: 530-343-1871


Associated Rivers

Feather, N. Fork [CA]
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Associated Projects