Yuba River hydroelectric project moves forward | TheUnion.com

Yuba River hydroelectric project moves forward

A Canadian energy company that has a proposal to build a 3-megawatt hydroelectric facility along the Yuba River outside of Marysville was granted a preliminary permit by a federal agency.

In a decision dated Jan. 7, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted a permit to Archon Energy that grants the company an exclusive option to develop a hydropower plant and permission to gather data and conduct studies for its formal license application, according to a news release issued by the South Yuba River Citizens League.

SYRCL has stridently opposed the proposed project since it first became public last year.

“Archon Energy’s proposed project conflicts with many ongoing collaborative efforts to improve the lower Yuba River fisheries,” said SYRCL Board President John Regan.

“We remain concerned that FERC and Archon fail to fully understand the role of this dam and any new facilities in impacting populations of salmon, steelhead and sturgeon.”

Regan said he recognized this was a formal step forward in what figures to be a long process that will include local stakeholder input but added that he remained concerned that FERC was “fast-tracking” the project.

In an interesting twist, the Yuba County Water Agency — which is squaring off against SYRCL regarding a 2012 opinion issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service, a federal agency responsible for management of the nation’s resources — is joining forces with SYRCL to question the viability of the project.

“YCWA has several concerns about the proposed project and comments on the documents as filed with the FERC,” said Curt Aikens, YCWA general manager, in a letter dated Aug. 8, 2012.

In a Thursday interview, Aikens said the concerns centered on three main issues: whether the project would impact a fishery near the dam, whether the project would impact water diversion essential for the region’s agriculture and whether it will impact flood prevention elements of the dam.

Aikens said he is confident the FERC process will allow for ample opportunity for all parties to provide input.

“The different parties will have a chance to ask all the questions that need to be asked,” Aikens said.

FERC has solicited formal comments from members of the public, and SYRCL is currently compiling feedback that will request that Archon conduct a variety of essential studies to determine the project’s potential impacts.

“SYRCL believes that the proposed project would conflict with a range of complex resource issues on the Yuba,” the release states.

The environmental nonprofit pointed to the February 2012 biological opinion by the fisheries service that states the existence of Daguerre Point Dam jeopardizes the survival of three endangered fish species endemic to California rivers.

According to Archon’s filings with FERC, the project would “divert a significant portion of the river flows from just upstream of the existing dam” through a series of turbines, the release states.

The project would be located downstream of a 39-mile segment of the South Yuba River that was declared a California Wild & Scenic River in 1999.

That designation prohibits the construction of new dams and related structures but would not prevent Archon’s proposal.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email mrenda@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4239.

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