In 1997 American Whitewater began working on to restore the Feather River, which was heavily impacted from hydropower development. Our goal has been ambitious but simple. Restore the Feather River, ecologically, and as a premiere recreational resource. During the first part of the twentieth century people came from all over the world to the Feather River to participate in an array of recreational activities; angling, paddling, swimming. The hydro projects that were built in the 1950’s and 60’s gathered up most of the river’s water and put it in pipes to produce power. While this was a boon for power production, it was devastating for the ecosystem and recreation industry on the Feather River.
The first piece of the puzzle was negotiating the landmark Rock Creek Cresta Settlement Agreement (FERC P-1962). This agreement more than doubled the base flows, set standards for water temperature, required habitat improvements for fish spawning, as well as requiring recreational releases starting at one weekend per month during the summer. Since this agreement was initiated, in the form of a new FERC license, we have seen a dramatic improvement in the fishery and an increase in shore-based recreation. In addition, thousands of paddlers have come to the North Fork Feather to experience what many feel is the best summer whitewater opportunity in California.
After implementing the Rock Creek Cresta agreement we set our sites on the Upper North Fork Feather Project. Flow studies were completed on two reaches; the class V Seneca reach and the class III+ Belden reach in 2000. After four years of negotiating we secured releases on both of these reaches in the Upper North Fork Feather Settlement Agreement that we signed in 2004.
The next hurdle in reaching our goal to restore the Feather watershed was the Lake Oroville State Water Project. All four forks of the Feather River drain into Lake Oroville, which inundated over sixty miles of river when, impounded by what is still the nations tallest dam. While the State Water Project, of which the Oroville Dam is the centerpiece, has provide many benefits to California, those benefits have not to the City of Oroville or this region of Northern California. American Whitewater has been working to reconnect Oroville to the Feather River. As part of a settlement reached in 2006, a $60 million dollar fund was established to promote recreation by investing in the Feather River corridor in the Oroville area.
Lastly we are working on the Poe and South Fork Feather projects. On these projects we will apply our lessons learned from developing flow conditions on hydro projects across California. Specifically, we have helped to develop the science that will help to protect the Foothill Yellow Legged Frogs that exist on the Feather. Flows that gradually recede with the spring snowmelt are more protective of frogs and other native aquatic species. These flows also provide predictable flows for whitewater recreation.
American Whitewater has spent so much time and effort on the Feather because of the huge restoration potential. Without the hydro projects, the Feather supported one of the most robust trout fisheries in the state and would have provided whitewater boating all summer long, even in the driest of years. In 2016, with the latest flow agreement for the Rock Creek and Cresta reaches in place, year round boating has returned to the Feather River. This recreation opportunity is helping to revitalize the Feather Canyon. We are posed to have many more successes in the future. So,as we have for the past 20 years, American Whitewater will continue to restore this amazing river.
Rock Creek Cresta (P-1962)
Rock Creek Access On NF Feather River Opened at Last! (CA)
06/14/2017 - by Megan Hooker
On June 13, 2017 the Rock Creek Bench river access site on the North Fork Feather River officially opened during a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) constructed the site as part of a post FERC licensing agreement with American Whitewater and other members of the Ecological Resources Committee. This access provides a huge safety improvement over how paddlers have accessed this river reach, and marks the completion of the last major goal for American Whitewater in restoring this section of river.
Oroville Project: One Step Closer to New License (CA)
12/17/2010 - by Dave Steindorf
California State Water Resources Control Board has approved the water quality certification document for the Lake Oroville Facilities. This certification from the State of California is the last regulatory step before FERC issues a new license for this project, which included the tallest dam in the US.
DWR Releases Oroville Whitewater Park Feasibility Study (CA)
02/02/2010 - by Dave Steindorf
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has released the whitewater park feasibility study on the Feather River in Oroville California. Download the report and attend the meeting on February 4th in Oroville.