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Hydropower Project Raises Concerns for Threatened Yuba River Salmon

Canadian Developers to host Public Meeting on October 22nd at Yuba County Board of Supervisors Chambers, 915 8th Street, Suite 109, Marysville, CA from 1:00-4:00PM


By: South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL)

Nevada City, CA October 11, 2012 – Whether a proposal to build a new hydropower project on the Lower Yuba River would set back efforts to restore wild salmon will be the focus of questions from a diverse coalition of conservation groups at an upcoming public meeting organized by Archon Energy, a Canadian firm. Archon Energy plans to present their proposal for a new hydropower project at Daguerre Point Dam to resource agencies, Tribes, and the public for the first time on October 22nd in Marysville.

"The proposal for a hydropower project seems likely to conflict with federal requirements to provide safe fish passage for endangered salmon past Daguerre Point Dam," said Caleb Dardick, Executive Director of the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL), a Nevada City-based nonprofit dedicated to protecting the Yuba River. Last February, the National Marine Fisheries Service released a Biological Opinion, which finds that the operation of Daguerre Point Dam is likely to jeopardize the survival of three species of endangered fish: spring-run Chinook salmon, steelhead, and green sturgeon. The Biological Opinion requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to implement a program to provide fish passage past the dam by 2020.

"Conservation groups support retrofitting existing dams for hydropower, provided the resource impacts are small. However, fish passage at Daguerre Point Dam is already a big problem," said Chris Shutes of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. "Since the Yuba River is already home to one of the largest powerhouses in California, this low benefit project should not be a priority."

Archon Energy officials assert that their proposal for a three megawatt facility will be "fish friendly" due to reliance on Archimedes screw turbines. However, this new hydropower technology has yet to be tested on rivers in the United States. SYRCL's Senior Scientist and fish biologist Gary Reedy says that much more information is needed to evaluate the safety of these turbines for sensitive fish species. "As proposed now, this project has the potential to negatively impact migratory salmon and steelhead at risk of extinction," said Reedy.

Joining SYRCL in monitoring Archon Energy's application is American Rivers, American Whitewater, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, and Trout Unlimited, who filed a joint statement on October 1st with the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission (FERC) identifying critical issues of concern including fish passage, recreation and water resources.

"Protecting the Central Valley's best, last remaining wild Chinook salmon populations is very important to people all over California," said Chandra Ferrari, Trout Unlimited's California Water Policy Director. "As a signatory to the historic Yuba Accord, Trout Unlimited is concerned that the proposal has the potential to complicate collaborative planning currently underway with the resource agencies and the Yuba River's many diverse stakeholders."

River advocates have expressed concern that the public is being left out of the loop. "SYRCL is very concerned that FERC's approval of a fast-track permitting process provides inadequate opportunities for the public to learn about and comment on this proposed project," said SYRCL Board President John Regan. "Archon has assured us that they will hold additional public meetings, and we've urged them to schedule events in the upper watershed, either Nevada City or Grass Valley, as well. Throughout the watershed, our community is passionate about protecting the Yuba and its fisheries, and SYRCL is committed to ensuring that they are heard."

The coalition of river conservation groups encourages community members who care about the future of Yuba River salmon to attend the public meeting on October 22 in Marysville. For more information, visit: http://yubariver.org/daguerre-point-dam-hydropower-project/


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