The Davis Hydro Fish Enhancement
Kilarc – South Cow Preferred Alternative
Hydro Project Decommissioning
In January 2008, Davis Hydro released Alternative I to PG&E’s proposed destruction of all the Kilarc-Cow Creek facilities. The core ideas in this Alternative are the restoration and enhancement of populations of various salmon in the Cow Creek Watershed. As with the first release, comments are welcome.
March 2008 revision
The Davis Hydro Fish Enhancement
Kilarc – South Cow Alternative I
Table of Contents
PG&E’s proposed plan for the Kilarc Cow Creek hydro project is to remove all facilities. In the opinions of State and Federal Agencies, valuable anadromous fish habitat resources in this area will be enhanced by removing the hydropower facilities. A more effective alternative is proposed here as Alternative I. Alternative I focuses on the use of the existing facilities as a fish production and recreation resource that has unique fish characteristics unmatched in California.
Alternative I is preferred over the removal of these facilities in that it has an excellent chance of providing more habitat for the target fish, specifically late-fall/winter run salmon and steelhead trout. The core of this alternative is to change the role of the headraces from that of a dead-end for fish into primary fish production facilities. The alternative provides a steady stream of seaward-migrating juveniles to a productive juvenile habitat with an increase in steady flow.
The Kilarc headrace, locally called the Kilarc canal, is full of numerous kinds of fish, including rainbow trout that enter freely from upstream and which are potential steelhead, the target species of concern at Kilarc. With modification, the canal can be converted into a first class spawning ground for these trout/steelhead that is both needed and stable in this branch of the Cow.
Fish, including the rainbow, are currently spawning in the canal. Alternative I greatly expands and takes advantage of this spawning behavior with simple engineering modifications. We propose to provide a long fish screen at the downstream end near the existing trash rack. This screen will lead juvenile fish and migrating adults into a fish bypass pipe that will return them to the middle of the Old Cow bypass reach (Figure 1). While the canal is currently habitat for spawning fish, it is possible to improve the bed conformation, substrate, banks, and cover to improve this habitat for spawning and very young juveniles.
The Kilarc diversion will continue as it is now, with a minimal release to river. Its primary function is to carry water and food downstream to the juvenile habitat areas which will receive water from four sources: Canyon Creek, the main channel of the Old Cow, spring flows from the North slope, and new water and young fish from the fish return flow. This lower part of the old bypass region provides considerable juvenile habitat that is to be augmented with the new flows.
The last quarter mile of the canal is easily accessible to the public from April to October. This area is safe for public viewing of fish in the canal, and in the screen and diversion facility to be located there. Fish are easily visible from the banks, and it is an ideal place to explain the lifecycle of the fish and to teach about the role of this facility in their conservation and restoration.
Upstream at the present diversion, the plan is to continue to divert fish and significant amounts of water from the South Cow using the existing diversion and canal. Spawning habitat will be created in the headrace for both salmon and steelhead. The area available is smaller than in the Kilarc canal, but it offsets a lower quality of habitat in the Wagoner Canyon. Measures will include bottom modifications, cover creation, and gravel augmentation if useful. The principal objective in this section will be stable annual salmon production. At the end of the headrace, as in the Kilarc facility, all fish in the canal will be diverted downstream via a pipe to the head of a new salmon and steelhead juvenile habitat area.
The new salmon and steelhead juvenile habitat area will be created just below the existing powerhouse and fed with water from three sources: the new bypass pipe bringing the fish, the hydropower releases, and any water coming down Hooten Gulch.
This is an extensive new facility to be built and designed primarily as a stable long-term salmon habitat.
In the Abbott Ditch we propose to work with the ranchers to help manage the ditch in several ways that will continue to deliver irrigation water as at present, but provide the water with less surface run-off to the creek. Along the creek below the project there are opportunities for working out new arrangements with the ranchers to limit damage to the Creek. If a future hydropower license were granted, the FERC would likely require that hydropower staff use both staff time and funds to undertake pollution reduction projects along the Creek.
Alternative I suggests the possibility of a collaborative arrangement with Shasta County, who may be able to take over the facilities on the hilltop and access roads. Assuming that a future license for hydropower may be granted, Davis Hydro would pay the County to deliver the water to the forebay intake and thus provide the County with a portion of revenues for water delivery and assistance with daily monitoring, operation, and day-to-day maintenance of the facilities.
PG&E is obliged to remove the existing facilities. This obligation will be carried forward utilizing a remediation bond or other reliable financial assurance. A remediation bond is normal in many similar situations such as mining, and may remain in place for many years uncalled. This solution is suggested here. With the active cooperation of all parties this bond is unlikely to be called.
Davis Hydro proposed a major steelhead and salmon production facility as a component of an environmentally responsible hydropower facility. The revenues, water, and structures of the hydro facility will provide power, more fish, and more recreation than if the facilities were removed.
The increase in fish production will be far larger than if all facilities were removed because the headraces and other areas can be engineered and actively managed under CDFG and NMFS guidance and FERC control.
The Davis Hydro Fish Enhancement:
Kilarc – South Cow Alternative I
The objective of the design and operation of this project is to modify the PG&E hydropower facilities to produce a superior number of target fish, with recreation and hydropower as the green option to finance the former benefits.
Key concepts on which this alternative is based:
In sections of the Kilarc and South Cow project, by providing a fish bypass at the end of the headraces much of the headraces can become extensive spawning grounds. A large number of fish can be observed spawning there currently, but unfortunately the canals are dead-ends for the fish. To make them productive all that is needed is a return path to the creeks. This proposal provides those return paths and modifies the canals and downstream areas to form excellent fish habitat.
In Kilarc, upstream barriers and altitude limit target steelhead fish, and upstream migration beyond various parts of the project is uncommon and difficult. This means that the area is primarily a source for seaward steelhead migrants rather than a reliable return habitat.
In the South Cow area, numerous cost-effective engineering changes can produce excellent juvenile stream habitat for both salmon and steelhead. The principal target fish in this area will be the Late-Fall/Winter Run salmon. In both areas, hydropower revenues and personnel can be used to enhance and maintain the new fish production facilities.
Near the existing trash rack at the end of the headrace is a long space for creating and monitoring an in-stream fish screen. The screen will separate the canal from the forebay areas. At the end of the screen will be an outlet that will direct young and seaward migrating fish into a pipe conduit as shown in Figure 1. This pipe will carry them down to the head of a small creek that leads down to the middle section of the bypass region of the Old Cow. Flow through this conduit will be chosen to minimize harm. The exit structure conditions will be designed and maintained to minimize predation. Initial design suggests a 3-4” diameter pipe at atmospheric pressure with regular aeration ports. Hydraulics will be designed for a minimal gradient until the fish are discharged into a natural creek channel.
The discharge will be designed to minimize predation from all sources. It is recognized that predation is a normal part of downstream passage and cannot and should not be eliminated completely. The objective is to reduce predation to well below what would occur naturally – at least until the fish are released into the primary juvenile spawning grounds. Predation by birds will be constantly monitored and controlled throughout the facility. The pipe will end in a small pool that is designed and maintained to minimize predation. From this pool there will be a natural, steep stream course down the juvenile habitat areas built into the Old Cow near where it is joined by Canyon Creek (Figure 1). This facility will be run during months where there is a reasonable probability of downward migration, and in any shoulder period where in-stream flow is insufficient for temperature control of the juvenile in-stream habitat.
The Kilarc headrace will be modified to produce a near perfect steelhead spawning ground. This will be done during the first year or two of the project. Much of the bottom is a mixture of sand and gravel, but this can be improved by increasing the gravel coverage and depth. Other areas of vegetation will be increased in various areas to provide food and shelter for fish and macro invertebrates. Bottom irregularities to form shallow pools and irregular surfaces will be designed and implemented to address cover and predation issues. These measures will be undertaken in about half of the canal where the flow velocity and depth are nearly perfect for spawning. Specific work will include:
a) Increasing the amount of river gravel substrate. The currently useful two miles of canal bottom is variably sandy gravels, gravels, sand, rocks, and some clay areas. This mix will be changed to combination of cobbles for vegetation, a sandy-gravel area for macro-invertebrate habitat and an increase in river gravel area for spawning.
b) Installing large boulders, and similar heavy wood debris pieces in wider places where resting pools and shoals are needed, placed such that they will not cause erosion beyond the shallow pools they will support.
c) Providing intermittent close cover for the canal. Heavy wood or tree logs will be used to provide cover in areas of the canal where natural cover is thin. This provides refuge and reduces predation. These heavy-duty covers would have the secondary effect of helping to reduce the debris falling in the canal. These would be designed, as far as possible, to not provide feeding perches for predators.
The effect of these engineering activities will be to make about 2 miles of the Kilarc Canal into near perfect spawning grounds for rainbow/steelhead. The fish will be released down natural streamways to the lower two thirds of the reach of the Old Cow that is now bypassed by hydropower.
These engineering changes need to be maintained, and this is the function of the perpetual care agreement that is part of the hydropower operation. This will be spelled out as an operating agreement and overseen by the FERC. Artificial spawning grounds have failed in the past. In this case there are four features that should improve success:
· There is already spawning in the channel.
· The inflow and growth of food is completely natural.
· We have full time personnel able to maintain the facility.
· There are no storm floods to destroy the bottom conditions.
The bypassed habitat varies characteristics along its length. At the top of the bypass area the Old Cow currently receives 2 to 4 cfs at the Kilarc diversion and little lateral inflow for the first third of its length. There are steep gradients and narrow channels in this area, and severe challenges for fish habitat. For this reason, no major increase in water is suggested in this bypass area, but rather the water is conserved to make the whole facility and its maintenance economically viable.
After this steep area there is a lower gradient middle section. Flows come into the Old Cow Creek from two additional sources, a steady flow from numerous springs on the hill north of the Creek, and secondarily from an inflow from the North Canyon area. Below these inflows, especially the middle and lower bypass sections, the area is well watered, and often has lower gradient sections suitable for juvenile habitat. This combination of areas of modest gradient and good steady water flow with some temperature regulation from the spring water, along with regular minimum flow releases from the project, make this area prime habitat for fish and especially the large population of rainbow trout currently extant.
The third of the bypassed reach that will provide juvenile habitat will be regularly supplied with juvenile fish from the new Kilarc Spawning Canal in the old headrace.
In summary, if the bypassed reach is divided into thirds:
This habitat is also productive because it is difficult to access and entirely on private land. The productivity of this area will be augmented by additional steady flows from the Kilarc Spawning Canal and will assure a high productivity of rainbow/potential steelhead fish in this area.
The South Cow project element is independent of the Kilarc site, in that the Kilarc element, as described above, can stand independently of this project. Likewise, this project can stand on its own merits and should be judged independently. The major contribution to be made in this area is consistent production of juvenile salmon and steelhead. We will reengineer the site to achieve this. Further, we will use some of the resources of the hydro to maintain and expand the facility as more is learned about the fish.
Specifically, the existing South Cow canal will be enhanced by a fish return at its end that will allow juvenile and seaward migrating adults to pass downstream to the top of the enhanced juvenile habitat - mostly on, and downstream of, the Tetrick Ranch. See Figure 2 for a Project Layout.
The need for stable spawning areas and the passage of steelhead will be addressed by the design and maintenance goals of the South Cow Spawning Canal. It will be smaller than the Kilarc canal spawning facility, primarily because there is less suitable substrate and gravel available in the South Cow. On the other hand, steelhead commonly (and salmon on rare occasions) pass upstream in the South Cow during winter floods.
The spawning channel will be newly unscreened and designed to allow spawning in the channel and safe fish passage downstream. At the downstream end, as at Kilarc, will be a long diversion net that will channel fish into a pipe that will return them to the Creek by way of the new Juvenile Habitat areas.
The new juvenile habitat areas will start in the area of the present powerhouse, which will remain in use. These new and rejuvenated habitat areas will be entirely on private land and extend from the powerhouse down across the Tetrick Ranch to as far downstream as resources permit.
Water flow into this juvenile habit will come from four sources:
· Intermittent flows from Hooten Gulch,
· hydropower tailwater (as now),
· the water from the fish bypass channel, and if advisable
· a fourth a synchronous bypass release when the hydropower is not running.
The latter two would be new sources. Using the revenues from the hydropower, the wetted Hooten Gulch and contiguous areas of the South Cow will be engineered to be prime juvenile habitat for young salmon and steelhead. The details of the design and operation would be worked out and monitored by State and Federal Resource agency biologists.
The following measures have not been agreed to nor discussed in detail with local landowners.
The Abbott Ditch is full of fish. The normal reaction is to prevent them from entering the ditch at the diversion to prevent them from dying in the fields. However, the gentle controlled flow of water provides an opportunity to create a spawning ground and later lead the fish back to the creek channel through a fish bypass, similar to that proposed for the power plants.
The Abbott Ditch diversion will be reengineered to be a minor impediment to upstream fish passage. However, downstream fish passage will not be screened at the diversion. Rather, the first mile or so (see Figure 2) will be modified to be a spawning habitat. At the end of that reach will be a screen leading the fish back into a small creek that leads down to the South Cow Creek. The advantage of the screen will be its location in a highly controlled area free from the flooding and destruction that occur in a natural water course. This provides for easy, reliable maintenance.
Ditch Operator: The ditch owners will be provided with an operator who, under their direction, will operate the ditch to provide all current irrigation. The operator will work with the ranchers to ensure that, to the extent possible, no run-off occurs. Better irrigation will result with an impartial water manager. Less water will be lost and less pollution will reach the river.
Fencing: There will be assistance and some funds for fish enhancement measures. These might include:
· Screening cattle from the creek to reduce habitat destruction.
· Settlement pond construction.
· Runoff reduction and channeling.
Davis Hydro has no direct or indirect interest in the water rights of the German Ditch. However, we have great interest in decreasing the mortality of fish that are diverted into the ditch.
As part of this Alternative, we suggest discussion of transferring the PG&E right along with the other facilities. There would be a caveat that part of the hydropower revenues be used to establish and maintain a diversion screen in the canal to capture juvenile and seaward migrating fish and return them to the Creek. A portion of the maintenance fund and a portion of the hydropower operation will used be to maintain this facility. Depending on their availability, and under the guidance of NMFS and CDFG, resources will be used to decrease water loss along this ditch to leave more water in the stream.
The current use of all the facilities will be essentially unchanged except for the addition of public education opportunities described below. The entire PG&E forebay facility will remain as it is, with all services intact. Alternative I would maintain the forebay as it is now, as the prime trout fishing location in the area and the best handicapped fishing in Northern California. This will allow the state and county to continue the current public fishing aspects of the site. The current recreation profile will continue as now with no changes. Fishing will be prohibited and discouraged in the spawning channels with public information. We propose to gate the entrance to the road down to the diversion in collaboration with the landowner. It is possible that other access roads down to the more dangerous parts of the canal will be closed at or near the project boundary for both fish enhancement and public safety reasons.
A salmon and steelhead interpretive center would be established close to the current trash rack near the end of the Kilarc canal spawning ground. It would have appropriate plaques explaining the life cycle of the fish and how the Kilarc Cow-Creek facility contributes to their enhancement. The public information facility would also explain the operation of the immediate facility and have a place where people could watch the fish migrate downstream at the end of the fish screen.
The public information aspects of the project will be implemented in the general area of the current trash rack at the very end of the spawning channel. The canal will be modified to increase the safe viewing of spawning in the shallow channel. In the area of the fish screen diversion, information panels will illustrate the characteristic spawning redds and fish spawning behavior. The primary focus of the Kilarc facility will be steelhead spawning, however other species of fish spawn at other times of the year. This all will be made clear on the panels.
Panels will be built to show the lifecycles of the fish and explain the spawning channel operation and fish breeding facility in front of them. Other panels will explain the operation of the whole facility including the bypass habitat and hydropower. Others will explain the effect of hydropower on the environment, in terms of altered habitat as well as the reduction in acid rain and related effects that result from its operation in lieu of other types of power generation. The panels will leave it to the viewer to evaluate the overall effects of the facility and the hydropower. Other panels will explain the effects of farming practices and unscreened diversions, and finally other panels will explain any ongoing experimental projects going on at the facility.
It is not understood how rainbow trout can be induced to migrate downstream. The Kilarc fish facility will produce far more juvenile fish than can be supported in the Old Cow, so downstream migration will be encouraged through population pressure on limited resources. Because all downstream migrants have to pass the fish bypass facility they can be counted easily. Likewise, because the canal can be accessed so easily and changes observed within it, it provides an ideal experimental facility with opportunities to see what changes in the environment will cause in downstream migration of juveniles and adults.
The keys to making this project work are the structural administrative relationships that are established at its inception and the long-term maintenance of all parts of the facility. The facilities were originally constructed and later licensed for hydropower. PG&E will continue to be regulated by the FERC for numerous facilities, even if hydropower were not resumed at this facility. It makes sense for PG&E top continue to respect its role as custodian of these types of resources, even if it no longer has a day-to-day role at this site.
· The County is going to be asked to take over the recreation facilities and the water delivery to the Kilarc Reservoir. Payment for this water delivery by a new hydropower operator would greatly offset maintenance costs of the County. Clearly, if the water is not utilized by hydropower, another source of money would be necessary to pay for it, or there would be no water to grow the anadromous fish.
· From the hydropower revenues, Davis Hydro will pay for the water delivery and contribute to day-to-day site maintenance and fish facility operation. Further, if the South Cow component is also approved Davis Hydro will provide assistance (under the direction of the ranchers) to the Abbott Ditch for management and delivery of irrigation water, spawning fish, and minimizing field run-off.
· A new FERC hydropower license, while necessary to allow hydropower revenues to fund maintenance, is even more useful for enforcing commitments to realize stated goals and objectives. Under the guidance of the FERC, a series of agreements would be put in place to protect and enhance the environment. Maintenance of the facilities and activities is a major concern of the responsible agencies. FERC will mandate that service as part of the License.
PG&E has the obligation to remove the facilities which would cost somewhere between 10 and 30 million dollars depending on what eventually will be required. This can be carried forward as a remediation bond established by PG&E. This bond would be called only when the facilities eventually have to be removed. Given the prospects for future value of green power and recreation, this is unlikely. The savings to PG&E and the rate-paying public are considerable, especially for removing a facility that the public clearly does not want removed.
The FERC will not permit this obligation to be transferred to a small company such as Davis Hydro or even a County, without a bond for eventual remediation. A remediation bond is normal in many similar situations, and may remain in place for many years uncalled. This is the solution suggested here.
Retention of Kilarc Reservoir, paid for by hydropower revenues and hydropower generation, provides the following benefits intrinsic to Davis Hydro’s Alternative I.
Exhaustive efforts in this state are being undertaken to fund green energy. Rates are very high, and numerous incentive programs are in place. This means that all other sources of green energy are being developed – more or less, at any price. Thus any additional energy needed to make up for a loss at Kilarc will be made up almost entirely by alternative fossil base load generation such as coal. This can be verified easily by examining any recent CPUC docket, such as R0404025 which has studied the issue exhaustively for the purpose of rate setting under PURPA.
The amount of green power generated at the Kilarc facility will remain as close as possible to what currently is allowed. Therefore, an important environmental benefit of this electricity production is the reduced carbon emissions from the fossil energy that will be used to replace the lost energy.
If removed, the replacement power produces acid rain. The carbon dioxide and other oxides from fossil burning combine with atmospheric moisture to produce carbonic and phosphoric acid rain. Over much of the project area, the underlying rock is granite or basalt with very little or no limestone or marble. This means that any added acidity from acid rain will be unbuffered by rock formations and will drop the stream and pond pH critically across Northern California and to a lesser extent all across the US.
While it seems simple for local analysts to look at a small dam and calculate that its removal may generate a specified number of fish locally, that total must be reduced by the number epidemiologically impacted by the incremental destruction of our environment by the replacement fossil energy. In contrast, these facilities are already built and will produce green power, thereby helping to forestall the impending environmental catastrophe of global warming which will eliminate from these areas all targeted listed species due to direct thermal stress.
The Town of Whitmore has been built in the shadow of the Kilarc Reservoir which it has depended on for fire protection over the past 100 years. No non-stone building now standing in the area was present when these hydro facilities were built.
The town grew in part because of the utility employment and recreation industry surrounding the Kilarc reservoir, and later because of the fire protection the reservoirs afforded. Some houses may receive some of their water from project leakage. All receive fire protection. No other water body in the area has this proximity, clear approach, and altitude advantage of the reservoir. For lifting heavy water, these are critical attributes on which the town now depends.
This Appendix contains informal notes on some of the laws possibly applicable to this alternative. They are not intended for agency people involved in the process who know the law, but constitute elements of the legal framework for discussion. By no means are they meant to be complete, but are some of the laws that will be followed by the FERC and its sister agencies in their analysis of the alternatives.
Present in the South Cow are winter run salmon, a soon to be a state and federally listed species. The presence of the salmon triggers opportunities for recovery and expansion of the fish facilities that are not possible in the Kilarc facility, where only steelhead are present.
Pursuant to the amended Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Act), Congress mandated that habitats essential to federally managed commercial fish species be identified, and that measures be taken to conserve and enhance habitat. In the Act as amended through 1996, Congress defined essential fish habitat (EFH) for federally managed fish species as “those waters and substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding, or growth to maturity” (PSMFC, 2008).
In the South Cow, the proposed huge expansion of salmon spawning grounds in the diversion canal and the new large increase in juvenile habitat provide opportunities to create and enhance habitat far beyond what would exist under natural conditions. This activity falls directly under this act. It is under the aegis of this act that we propose to create essential fish habitat in these areas. The spawning and juvenile areas serve both the salmon and the steelhead, although arguably only the salmon are commercial enough to be included under this law.
NEPA requires the study of a range of alternatives; but it does not require the selection of any particular alternative. Alternative I, discussed in this document, is provided under the aegis of this law. It greatly expands spawning habitat and protects and makes full use of juvenile habitat for two listed species in a better way than natural conditions.
The Kilarc and South Cow canals and forebays might be classified as wetlands under the Clean Water Act because the natural flow will put water into these facilities when the diversion gates are open. Closing the gates will dry them up, as gates would do to any stream or river. A reading of the law may suggest that the canals are now wetlands because with open gates the areas are flooded. On the other hand, they might not be classified as wetlands because they are artificial, and in actively shutting off the water, they will disappear. This is up to others to resolve.
Some of the naturally occurring wetlands that have been influenced by the hydro operation over the past 105 years may come under the protection of this law. Areas that might qualify include the lower Hooten Gulch, which currently is full of fish and contains some species of endangered frogs.
Other areas that might fall under this Act are the reaches bypassed by the hydropower. As described in PG&E’s Habitat Assessment (Entrix, 2007), they are often U shaped, narrow with steep sides. The reduced controlled flows may be optimal for fish production. This is more likely in the narrower reaches of Wagoner Canyon and the upper reach on the Old Cow.
Under CEQA, as in NEPA, all reasonable alternatives are to be examined. In particular, under both laws the “no change” alternative has to be considered seriously. In this case, Alternative I is close to the No-change Alternative since we are proposing only minor engineering “mitigation” changes to the facilities and only minor changes to the operation.
Entrix. 2007. Aquatic Habitat and Fisheries Resources Report (AHFRR). November.
Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC). 2008. An Introduction to Essential Fish Habitat. [Online] URL: http://www.psmfc.org/efh/efh.html.