19 May 2023

Yuba River Restoration Agreement Keeps Dams, Hydro Generation in Play

19 May 2023  by   

The crown jewel of YCWA’s 400-MW Yuba River Development Project is New Bullards Bar Dam and Reservoir, constructed in 1970.()

A framework agreement was announced this week between Yuba Water Agency and state and federal agencies that details ambitious watershed recovery efforts in California, which will also safeguard water supplies from the Yuba River.

The agreement was announced during a joint press conference held on the lower Yuba River in Yuba County with California Governor Gavin Newsom; California Department of Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot; Director of California Department of Fish and Wildlife Chuck Bonham; Cathy Marcinkevage, assistant regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region; and Willie Whittlesey, general manager of Yuba Water Agency.

Yuba Water, CDFW and NOAA Fisheries will partner on a comprehensive restoration agreement for the Yuba River, which includes a project to help salmon and other threatened fish get around the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Daguerre Point Dam on the lower Yuba River. The collaborative agreement includes major actions to help recover imperiled fish:

Construction of a new fishway that salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and lamprey can follow to get around Daguerre Point Dam to reach more than 10 miles of spawning habitat.

Construction of a modernized water diversion at Daguerre Point Dam to supply irrigation water that will protect fish passing the intake.

A comprehensive reintroduction program to support recovery efforts of spring-run chinook salmon with a goal of returning them to their original habitat in the North Yuba River above New Bullards Bar Reservoir as soon as 2025.

Yuba Water owns the 400 MW Yuba River Project, which consists of the New Colgate, New Bullards Bar Minimum Flow and Narrows 2 developments. It is located in Yuba, Sierra and Nevada counties. In 2020, the agency bought the 12 MW Narrows No. 1 powerhouse from Pacific Gas & Electric.

Two federal dams built to control the impacts of Gold Rush-era mining prevent native fish species such as chinook salmon and green sturgeon from reaching their historic spawning grounds in the watershed. Daguerre Point Dam (built in 1910) allows only limited passage for some fish species and Englebright Dam (built in 1941) is a complete barrier to fish passage. Both dams are owned and operated by the Corps.

“As I’ve worked with our state and federal partners, I think we’re redefining the way we work together,” said Whittlesey. “Yuba Water Agency is not sitting back, waiting for the regulatory process to define the work we do. We’re engaging with resource agency leadership, looking each other in the eye, and asking ourselves what can we do? What should we do? These discussions are resulting in a new brand of leadership, a new way of thinking and a new way of working together to provide benefits throughout the state.”


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