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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement for relicensing the Yuba River Development Project, which is owned and operated by Yuba Water Agency. FERC has regulatory authority over most hydroelectric projects in the U.S.
This milestone represents FERC’s final independent environmental analysis of the impacts associated with issuing a new license to operate Yuba Water’s facilities for the next 40-50 years. Those facilities include Our House and Log Cabin diversion dams, New Colgate and Narrows 2 powerhouses, and New Bullards Bar Dam and Reservoir.
Through this environmental document, FERC staff largely supports Yuba Water Agency’s proposed conditions (from the amended final license application) for the projects’ future operation. For example, instream fisheries flows based on the Yuba Accord form the basis of the flow requirements proposed for the new license, with some small previously negotiated changes. Other key license conditions proposed include:
Construction of a new secondary spillway at New Bullards Bar Dam to enhance Yuba Water’s ability to manage large storm flows, significantly reducing flood risk for the communities of Yuba and Sutter counties and enhancing dam safety
Construction of a new tailwater depression system at New Colgate Powerhouse, to enhance power generation capability
Enhancement of existing recreational facilities around New Bullards Bar Reservoir and at Our House Dam
Development of new plans to plant riparian vegetation and to place large woody material along the lower Yuba River to benefit fish and wildlife
This is a major milestone in the relicensing process for the agency. Next steps include working with the State Water Resources Control Board on compliance with the Clean Water Act, and FERC completing consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service regarding the Yuba River’s fish species. Once these two major processes are finalized, FERC can issue a new operating license to Yuba Water Agency, which may differ from this document. This process may take several years to complete.
“This has been a time-consuming, highly-technical and expensive process,” said Curt Aikens, Yuba Water Agency general manager. “But now, it seems as if all the time, effort and money expended to fulfill the requirements of the relicensing process are paying off. We feel that this final environmental statement sets us on a successful relicensing path for the long-term operation of this incredible asset that provides so much benefit for the people of Yuba County.”
Yuba Waters’ facilities benefit the people of Yuba County. Collectively, these facilities generate over 400 MW of clean renewable hydropower for homes and businesses throughout California, supply water for nearly 80,000 acres of productive Yuba County farmland, reduce the risk of flooding for residents in Yuba and Sutter counties, and offer numerous recreational amenities including boating, fishing, camping and swimming.