Yuba fish passage ideas discussed | TheUnion.com

Yuba fish passage ideas discussed

Quick, name a Yuba River dam that’s being studied for removal or modification for the sake of salmon and steelhead trout by a group of “stakeholders” who meet behind closed doors.

If you guessed Englebright Dam, you’re right.

But it’s not the only one.

On Monday, at an all-day, closed-door meeting in Sacramento, a group of 20 to 25 stakeholders are expected to discuss options for getting salmon and steelhead past Daguerre Point Dam on the Yuba River halfway between Grass Valley and Marysville.

Like a giant speed bump, Daguerre Point is 26 feet high. The river flows over its rounded surface and fish try (unsuccessfully) to get over the dam or (more successfully) up the fish ladders on either side.

Daguerre Point was built in 1906 to hold back hydraulic mining debris.

Water is diverted at the dam – by gravity, no pumping is necessary – for use on farmland. Currently, 112,000 acres are irrigated from the dam’s diversions, said Nancy Jones, assistant manager of the Yuba County Water Agency.

Critics of Daguerre Point include South Yuba River Citizens League, which says studies have shown the dam blocks up to 40 percent of the Yuba’s salmon and steelhead from more than 12 miles of spawning habitat upstream of the dam.

Now, the state Department of Water Resources is studying the dam as part of its fish-passage improvement program.

The meeting Monday will look at various fish-passage options and try to “narrow it down to the most likely ones,” said Ted Frink, a senior environmental scientist for the state agency.

Possible options include removing the dam or improving its fish ladders.

Frink said it’s too early to say which way things are leaning. “That’s the point where we’re at, where there’s no preferred alternative yet,” he said.

Frink hopes the group will narrow the options down in six months, at which time environmental documentation, such as an environmental impact report, could begin. That process would be open to the public, he said.

He couldn’t say Wednesday how much the study would cost.

Frink also declined to say who all the stakeholders are. He wanted to meet with them first and see how they feel about having their names made public.

SYRCL attorney Larry Sanders is one of the stakeholders who will meet Monday in Sacramento.

At one point, SYRCL called for the dam’s removal, but now Sanders isn’t sure that’s a good idea.

“The dam-removal option, in my opinion, has a lot of problems,” he said.

Problems include how to divert irrigation water if the dam isn’t there. Currently, farmers can divert up to 376,000 acre feet of water at the dam, about one-third the capacity of Bullards Bar Reservoir.

Pumping irrigation water isn’t likely because “everybody’s agreed that the farmers can’t be hit with a … long-term fixed … cost,” Sanders said.

At least one farmer sits on the stakeholders’ committee: Charlie Mathews, who farms 5,000 acres of rice using water diverted from the north side of the dam.

“We’re extremely worried” about the dam’s fate, Mathews said Wednesday. “(One) fear of the people down here is, if the dam is removed and the gravel (behind it) comes down, it could raise the river channel in Marysville,” increasing flood risk, he said.

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