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The Yuba Water Agency is a stand-alone public agency governed by a board of 7 elected officials to serve the people of Yuba County. Established by a special act of the California State Legislature in 1959, the agency’s primary missions are flood risk reduction, water supply, fish habitat protection and enhancement, hydroelectric generation, and recreation.
Yuba Water Agency was established in 1959 to reduce flood risk and provide a sustainable water supply to the people of Yuba County. Yuba County has historically endured devastating floods, due in part to Gold Rush era hydraulic mining practices that washed millions of cubic yards of debris into the Yuba River, raising the riverbed and increasing the flood risk.
As gold mining gave way to farming and ranching, water users south of the Yuba River over-drafted the aquifer, causing dramatic declines in groundwater levels. To resolve these problems, Yuba Water Agency proposed the Yuba River Development Project, a multipurpose flood control, water supply and hydropower generation project, which was approved in 1961. In 1966, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a license for the project, and Yuba Water Agency completed construction in 1970.
Yes, you can find meeting agendas, minutes, and supporting documents for our Board of Directors and other committees in the Agenda Center.
Yes. You can learn more about our flood management efforts in the Flood Risk Reduction section.
For the last 50 years, the Yuba Water Agency has flown under the radar, largely unnoticed by the public. We are in a position to make a significant impact in the lives of the people of Yuba County that could truly transform this community for the better. And yet, we found that many Yuba County residents had not heard of us, or if they had, they weren’t sure what we did. Many residents confused us for a department within the government of Yuba County. We wanted to minimize confusion about who we are and what we do, so we dropped county from the name, to make it easier to stand out as a separate government agency. At the same time, we wanted to make sure that our image is one that people can easily connect with and identify out of the sea of government agencies and organizations that people come into contact with on a daily basis.
No, the legal name of Yuba County Water Agency will stay the same. While the new brand and logo identify the organization as the Yuba Water Agency, it is primarily to simplify and clarify the community’s understanding of who we are and what we do. On all legal documents, we still refer to ourselves as the Yuba County Water Agency.
Each year, Yuba Water Agency invests millions of dollars into projects to further our primary missions of reducing flood risk and ensuring a sustainable water supply for Yuba County. In addition, we provide many grants to a number of organizations and projects that are related to our mission areas, to provide local resources and support community development and improvement projects. We also make significant financial investments to improve the natural fisheries of the Yuba River, and to educate the public about water and fisheries issues.
Just a few recent examples of contributions made by Yuba Water Agency include the following:
Funded the local cost-share of improvements to the Feather River Setback Levee, leveraging more than $400 million in federal and state investment
Partnered with PG&E to provide water conservation improvements to low income homes in Yuba County through their Energy Savings Assistance program
Are investing $1.5 million for the Blue Forest program, a pilot project to use various tactics to thin the forest, reducing fire risk and ensuring and improved water supply and quality in the Yuba River watershed
Funded the purchase of a new water tender truck for the Dobbins-Oregon House Fire Protection District, which serves the agency's facilities in the foothills
Granted more than $2 million to Yuba County for ongoing services and equipment, including flood preparedness supplies
Provided essential first aid kits for the Yuba County Mounted Sheriff’s Posse
Funded the River Management Team fisheries research
Funded the Fish in the Classroom educational program
Going forward, Yuba Water Agency will continue to provide grants, supplies and other funding for a number of local projects and programs within our mission areas. Currently, we plan to dedicate approximately $1 million each year for this purpose, above and beyond our primary missions.
The Anadromous Fish Restoration Program aims to double the natural production of anadromous fish (fish that spend their adult life in oceans and return to the rivers to reproduce) like Chinook salmon and steelhead. The lower Yuba River can host up to 20 percent of all salmon spawning in the Sacramento River tributaries, but these emerging young fish face many challenges reaching the ocean. The primary focus of this project is to enhance productive juvenile salmonid rearing habitat, to allow juvenile fish to grow larger prior to their migration to the ocean, which will increase their chance of returning as adults. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is funding the design and implementation of the Hallwood Project.
The floodplain surrounding the more than three miles of perennial side channels and four miles of seasonal side channels will inundate continuously for several weeks approximately every two years with shallow slow water favorable for juvenile salmonids. Groundwater-fed perennial side channels will stay connected all year, while seasonal side channels will inundate with typical spring flows to provide off-channel rearing habitat for juvenile salmonids.
The project will improve more than 170 acres of seasonally inundated riparian floodplain habitat for numerous riparian tree species, and the host of aquatic and terrestrial organisms that reside in these habitats. This project increases the connectivity of these habitats for a healthier, more productive river system; a resource benefit to the public for purposes such as aesthetics and recreation.
Pre-project monitoring began in 2014. Following that, snorkel surveys were conducted and macroinvertibrates (aquatic bugs) and water temperature were monitored from 2014 - 2016. Riparian vegetation composition and recruitment, and dissolved oxygen and turbidity grab measures were performed in 2016. Pre-project monitoring studies designed to compare fish health in off-channel habitat to the main channel, using juvenile outmigration and predation experiments, were performed in spring 2016. As part of implementation, physical and biological variables such as these will be monitored into the future to assess the project's effectiveness and learn lessons for future projects like this in the Central Valley.
This is the first project of its kind on the Yuba River, but similar actions have been take on other rivers in California. For example, on the Merced River, floodplain grading to create spawning habitat has led to high levels of spawning and floodplain utilization by juvenile salmonids. Additional projects on the Trinity, Stanislaus and American rivers have also improved main channel, off-channel and floodplain habitats for salmonids.
Yuba Water Agency's Procurement and Purchasing Department manages bids for various types of services, commodities and public works projects. Additionally, purchasing handles the agency's surplus and credit card programs (CalCard), and manages facilities development and maintenance of non-hydro facilities.
Bid postings and RFPs
It is a program created in 1983 that allows local agencies to perform public project work up to $45,000 with its own workforce if the agency elects to follow the cost accounting procedures set forth in the Cost Accounting Policies and Procedures Manual of the California Uniform Construction Cost Accounting Commission. The Uniform Public Construction Cost Accounting Act is enacted under Public Contracts Code Section 22000 through 22045. For additional information visit http://www.sco.ca.gov/ard_cuccac.html.
Insurance requirements will vary depending on the work being provided. Standard policy coverage limits are:
- General liability: $2,000,000 per occurance and $5,000,000 aggregate
- Automobile: $2,000,000 per accident
- Employer's Liability: $1,000,000 per accident
- Professional Liability: $1,000,000 per claim
- Workers Compensation requirements are set by statutory limits
Yuba Water Agency’s proposed voluntary settlement agreement is a collaborative approach to improving fish and wildlife habitat in the Bay-Delta ecosystem and achieving the State Water Board’s coequal goals of water supply reliability and ecosystem restoration. It includes: collaboration, increased flows, funding, fish habitat improvements and the development of a river science program meant to contribute to the recovery of fish and wildlife species in the Bay-Delta ecosystem. Specifically, Yuba Water proposes:
a. A base contribution of 9,000 acre-feet of new water releases in above-normal, below-normal and dry years, specifically for Delta inflow.
b. A supplemental contribution of up to an additional 41,000 acre-feet for Delta inflow in those same years, compensated at $290 per acre-foot.
c. A partnership with others in the development and/or improvement of 100 acres of in-channel and floodplain fish habitat during the term of the agreement.
d. A contribution of up to $10 million for fish habitat improvement measures.
e. A contribution of $7.8 million to fund a river science program, at $520,000 per year in the Yuba Watershed.
The term of the voluntary settlement agreement would be for 15 years. The other parties to the agreement would include the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the California Department of Water Resources.
Yuba Water Agency has proven over the last ten years, since the successful and continuing implementation of the award-winning Yuba Accord, that collaborative agreements are more sustainable, imaginative, and result in actual improvements, as opposed to controversial regulatory requirements that are limited in approach and that get tied up in court for decades. When parties focus on interest-based negotiations, and allow science to lead the way to determine the best way ahead, often the results are more meaningful solutions for California’s economy and environment. Water supply reliability for the benefit of Yuba County farmers and residents is the agency’s top priority in both Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing and in this voluntary settlement process. The settlement proposal ensures Yuba Water is able to both maintain our water supply reliability as well as provide better environmental benefits than the State Water Board alternative.
As a regulatory agency, the State Water Board can only require measures within its authority. For example, the State Water Board can require water agencies to forgo diversion of flows that are needed to mitigate their impacts from diversions, but it lacks authority to require other measures under a more comprehensive approach to mitigating for impacts (such as habitat enhancement measures, funding and a science program)
State Water Board staff issued a Framework for the Bay-Delta Plan Update that encourages entering into voluntary settlement agreements, but provides “default” flow requirements for rivers that feed the Delta of 55 percent of “unimpaired flows.” This unimpaired flow approach would require a large portion of each watershed’s total inflow to be dedicated to flow out of the Delta. This “unimpaired flow” approach would have significant adverse impacts on California communities, farms and the environment (when compared to the current Yuba Accord flows and the proposed voluntary settlement agreement flows). Scientists at the University of California, Davis, and researchers with the Public Policy Institute of California, cautioned that the State Water Board staff’s flow proposal would not address key factors critical to the Delta’s ecosystem health, such as food and habitat availability, or predation by other species.
The State Water Board staff proposal focuses on only one of the key factors essential to ecosystem health in the delta – increased flows – but it requires so much water that it would be harmful to California communities and farms, imposing more frequent and severe water shortages, with unclear fish and wildlife benefits. The voluntary settlement agreements represent a collaborative plan designed to contribute to the recovery of fish and wildlife species and are an alternative to the State Water Board’s proposed one-size-fits-all requirement to release massive amounts of flows in an attempt to improve Bay-Delta fisheries. The Yuba Water Agency proposal is a collaborative approach to reaching the State Water Board’s coequal goals of water supply reliability and ecosystem restoration that addresses the need for increased flows, but also includes collaboration, habitat improvements, funding, and a river science program.
Yes. The Newsom Administration is leading this collaborative effort, which includes the Department of Water Resources, Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and water agencies on the American, Feather, Sacramento and Yuba Rivers. All of the major agencies/districts on these tributaries are submitting their own proposals based on the unique situation in their watersheds.
Yes. Yuba Water, in partnership with the Newson Administration, believes the voluntary settlement agreements would provide greater benefit to the environment, which would create more certainty for managing water supplies over the next 15 years. This certainty would benefit the agency’s ability to generate hydropower, provide water for local irrigation districts, and - using revenue from the settlement - fund additional public safety actions, such as our planned secondary spillway at New Bullards Bar Dam.
The agency plans to use the estimated $80 million in compensation from the supplemental water contributions to pay for implementing the agency’s share of habitat improvements and other requirements of the plan, as well as helping to fund projects such as a new secondary spillway at New Bullards Bar Dam - currently in design. This key infrastructure project will significantly reduce the flood risk to Yuba and Sutter counties, while greatly enhancing the safety of the dam. Early estimates are that the critical public safety measure will cost more than $200 million.
The voluntary agreements are currently tied up in legal challenges between the state and federal government.
The Yuba Salmon Partnership Initiative is a collaborative, science-based initiative to contribute to the recovery of Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon and steelhead by enhancing habitat in the Yuba River downstream of Englebright Dam and reintroducing salmon (and possible steelhead) into their historic habitat in the North Yuba River upstream of New Bullards Bar Dam.
California's Department of Fish and Wildlife, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service, Yuba Water Agency, American Rivers, California Sportfishing Alliance and Trout Unlimited.
California's once abundant salmon and steelhead runs have experienced severe declines over the last century, in part due to habitat loss and degradation. The YSPI represents a promising opportunity to continue to rebuild their populations in the lower Yuba River and reconnect these species to over 30 miles of valuable habitat in the Sierra Nevada's North Yuba River that has been inaccessible to them for more than 74 years. Reintroducing salmon and steelhead to habitat upstream of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Englebright Dam has been a priority for NMFS and was included in its 2014 Recovery Plan for Central Valley Chinook salmon and steelhead.
The YSPI envisions a program to analyze, prioritize and implement habitat actions in the lower Yuba River, downstream of Englebright Dam. Plans for lower Yuba River habitat enhancement activities have not been finalized but will be selected based on their ability to meet certain principles described in the term sheet. These are likely to include improvement of riparian vegetation, improving fish passage at Daguerre Point Dam, actions to restore salmon spawning habitat, and measures to improve rearing habitat for juvenile salmonids, including expansion of side channel and floodplain areas to promote rapid growth of young salmon before they migrate to the ocean.
There are two major dams that salmon and steelhead need to get around to reach the North Yuba River: the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' 260-foot-high Englebright Dam and Yuba Water Agency's 640-foot-high New Bullards Bar Dam. The YSPI is evaluating the feasibility of a collect and transport program to move adult fish upstream to spawning habitat and juvenile fish downstream around these dams for rearing and migration to the sea.
The YSPI is considering the construction and operation of facilities downstream of Englebright Dam for the collection and transport of adult salmon, and facilities upstream of New Bullards Bar Dam for acclimatization and release of adult salmon to migrate to and spawn in upstream habitat and collection and transport of juvenile salmon for release downstream of Englebright Dam. The YSPI is reviewing several alternatives for accomplishing reintroduction.
Collection and transport programs for the reintroduction of salmon have been used in the Pacific Northwest for decades. The YSPI reintroduction is a grand endeavor intended to take advantage of recent advances in reintroduction technologies from the Pacific Northwest and employ them here in the Sierra Nevada as a tool for contributing to the recovery of salmon and steelhead.
There have been a number of studies of anadromous fish passage alternatives in the Yuba River watershed, including by the Yuba Salmon Forum, which did evaluate dam removal, but the YSPI is not considering dam removals. YSPI parties participated in the Yuba Salmon Forum. A variety of other actions are underway in the Yuba River watershed to protect, restore and enhance habitat for salmon, steelhead and other fish and wildlife species. For example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will soon begin a feasibility study exploring the options to contribute to the restoration of the Yuba River ecosystem, including an assessment of options to reintroduce fish upstream of Englebright Dam. Additional measures are being implemented to improve fisheries habitat as part of the Lower Yuba River Accord.
Englebright Dam has been a focus for many agencies and interests for more than 15 years, but the implementation of practical passage options are complicated, expensive and controversial. As brief background, the California Debris Commission built the 260 foot tall Englebright Dam in 1941 to safely retain mining sediment that was unleashed in the upper watershed during the Gold Rush and from mining efforts after that period. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated that the dam has stored over 28 million cubic yards of sediment, much of it contaminated with arsenic and mercury. Safely managing that debris would be a significant undertaking. Englebright Dam also presents a complete passage barrier to salmon, steelhead and other fisheries to the upper watershed. The YSPI represents a promising opportunity to finally identify and implement a practical option for moving salmon and possibly steelhead around the dam.
Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon and Central Valley steelhead are listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and are federally protected. The YSPI will be working with local, state and federal agencies to implement provisions to gain the support of communities in the reintroduction area. Additionally, the 2014 NMFS Recovery Plan states that salmon recovery actions in the Yuba River Watershed should include measures to minimize regulatory requirements on local land and water users. YSPI plans to use multiple tools to ensure that the needs of water users, anglers, businesses and landowners in the reintroduction area, as well as other legal, social and economic concerns, are addressed. For instance, NMFS has authority under ESA Section 10(j) to designate these species as nonessential experimental populations. A designated experimental population that is determined to be not essential to the continued existence of a species does not receive the benefit of certain ESA protections normally applicable to threatened species, as a way of building community support for a reintroduction. This is a critical issue for the YSPI’s success.
YSPI plans to use available tools to ensure that the needs of water users, anglers, businesses and landowners in the Yuba River Watershed are addressed. YSPI anticipates that the tools will be used to ensure that angling is allowed to occur as it does today as long as anglers are otherwise complying with fishing regulations and not intentionally fishing for reintroduced fish
Yes. If successful, the YSPI could improve the abundance of anadromous salmonids migrating through the Bay-Delta.
The YSPI participants have approved a non-binding Term Sheet, which provides a framework for the negotiation of a settlement agreement. The settlement agreement and related action plan will specify issues such as the facilities necessary to transport fish, habitat restoration actions downstream of Englebright, biological and technical metrics, legal and regulatory matters, funding, and the roles and responsibilities of each party for implementing the YSPI. If a settlement agreement is completed, these and other variables will affect when any aspect of the habitat enhancement and reintroduction programs could begin, but a pilot program could begin within 5-7 years and a full-scale reintroduction could potentially begin within 10-15 years, under ideal circumstances.
The full range of YSPI actions has not yet been developed. Until additional analyses are complete, it is difficult to estimate capital, operation and maintenance costs. Based on other passage and reintroduction programs, including the Baker River and Pelton Round Butte projects, the YSPI reintroduction project may cost upward of $400-$500 million over the 50 year life of the program (2015 dollars). YCWA and others have provided significant funding for the Yuba Salmon Forum and other fisheries studies, and YCWA has committed up to $100 million to the YSPI over the next 50 years. Funding from other sources, however, would be absolutely necessary to implement the full action plan. As part of the settlement agreement, the YSPI intends to develop a comprehensive funding plan that identifies other local, state and federal entities with interests in salmon enhancement in the Yuba River. YCWA’s commitment is a tremendous start toward implementing a program of this scale and will make it much easier to attract funds for specific program components from a variety of local, state and federal sources.
The YSPI is an ambitious effort to establish that salmon reintroductions in California’s Sierra Nevada can contribute to the recovery of these iconic species. The discoveries and lessons that emerge from this process could be invaluable to biologists throughout the range of Pacific salmon species. Ultimately, this process is part of an effort to undo some 5 the damage caused during the Gold Rush. Hydraulic mining was one of the most disruptive events to occur in the Yuba River watershed – and it was undertaken for years without a full accounting of the unintended impacts to other resources in the watershed. Restoring this river and its salmon runs will be a significant step towards salmon recovery and has social, cultural and even economic benefits to all of California, especially future generations.
A fundamental commitment of the YSPI is to collaborate with regional stakeholders. The YSPI is committed to ensuring that local communities in the reintroduction areas, particularly Yuba County and Sierra County, receive long-term social, economic and environmental benefits from a reintroduction.
The North Yuba River contains more than 30 miles of unregulated (i.e., no additional dams) river upstream of New Bullards Bar Reservoir. This is more than all other reaches above Englebright Dam combined. This segment of the North Yuba River also has higher and colder summer and fall unimpaired flows compared to the Middle Yuba River or South Yuba River, and the North Yuba River segment is a heavily forested area with several tributaries and more favorable fisheries habitat. For these reasons, the YSPI believes that a salmon and/or steelhead reintroduction in the North Yuba River has the best chance of being successful. The YSPI Term Sheet states that, at some point, YSPI parties (other than YCWA) will consider anadromous salmonid reintroduction to the Middle Yuba River upstream of Our House Dam, if feasible and supported by the best available science. YCWA’s role with respect to such consideration for the Middle Yuba River would be as a stakeholder, rather than as a project proponent. Yuba Salmon Forum studies show that, due to limitations in potential habitat during dry year types, reintroduction of salmon likely would not be selfsustaining in the South Yuba River.
The YSPI is separate from proceedings for relicensing by FERC of YCWA's Yuba River Development Project (YRDP), and the relicensing of other projects in the watershed (e.g., the Yuba-Bear and Drum-Spaulding projects). YCWA will file the YSPI settlement agreement with FERC for informational purposes, asking that the terms of the settlement agreement not be incorporated into the new YRDP license or related regulatory approvals.