Federal Biologists Determine that Corps Dams Are Harming Yuba River Fisheries

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A Biological Opinion (BiOp) recently produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has determined that continued operation of Englebright dam and Daguerre Point dams on the lower Yuba River in California will jeopardize endangered fish species on the Yuba River.

The Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon and steelhead and the Southern distinct population segment of North American green sturgeon have all be affected by the dams.

In its BiOp, NOAA's National Marine and Fisheries Service (NMFS) also stated that it considers the Yuba River Development Project, Yuba-Bear Project, and the Drum Spaulding Project to be interrelated and interdependent with operation and maintenance of Englebright and Daguerre Point dams. These projects are respectively owned by Yuba County Water Agency (YCWA), Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), and Nevada Irrigation District (NID) and are undergoing FERC relicensing. The NMFS has recommended that the Corps, which operates the two dams, coordinate closely with FERC and the above mentioned entities to carry out consultation under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) during FERC relicensing.

The new BiOp was produced as a result of an order from a U.S. District Court in California in December of last year.

Coalition members engaged in the relicensing process have long maintained that the Englebright dam has been a major hurdle to fish migration. The Coalition has been advocating for fish passage at the Englebright dam to allow for passage of Chinook salmon and Steelhead. This BiOp could be a significant step toward restoring the fisheries on the Yuba watershed.

In a press release, Executive Director of South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL), a member of the Coalition, Caleb Dardick said, “The new biological opinion is an important first step towards preventing the extinction of Yuba River salmon, steelhead and sturgeon. These threatened fish need to be able to move freely upstream of Daguerre Point and Englebright dams to the upper Yuba River watershed.”

Although the BiOp itself will not save the Yuba River fish, Caleb pointed out that it is now necessary for the agencies with responsibility over these dams to show leadership by fully implementing the actions outlined in the BiOp without delay.

Read the BiOp here.