Kern River Access, Conservation and Water News
Southern California Edison Company (SCE) is preparing an Application for License to renew its existing license for the Borel Hydroelectric Project, FERC Project No. 382. The Borel Canal diverts water from Lake Isabella to the Borel Powerplant, dewatering one of the few class III sections of the Kern River, the Dam Run. For more information see www.borel.info and the following:
June 1, 2002. Construction of the Delonegha Boat Launch and River Access has been completed. The boat launch and river access point is at the Highway 178 bridge near Delonegha Hot Springs on the Hobo Campground to Democrat section of the Lower Kern. The access point is approximately 7 miles downstream of the Hobo Rapid put-in and 4 miles upstream of the Democrat takeout. The day use area is accessible from both the east and west sides of Highway 178.
Funding for the project was provided by the California Department of Boating and Waterways, the Bureau of Land Management, the California Resources Agency, and the Forest Service.
Southern California Edison (SCE) diverts 426 cfs from the river at Democrat Dam, just below the takeout for the Lower Run, and returns it to the river at the SCE powerhouse KR1, two miles upstream from the mouth of Kern Canyon. This reduces the flow on the Cadillacs, Richbar and Cataracts runs. All three sections, collectively, are referred to as the Kern Below Democrat, or the dated designation, the "Cataracts of the Kern."
As part of the relicensing process, a coalition of river interests including the American Whitewater and Friends of the River, requested that whitewater flow studies be done on this section of river in order to characterize flow levels, establish optimum flows, and assess recreational value. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) agreed and in the Fall of 1995 WRC Environmental coordinated the study.
Keith Beck posted the results of the flow study on rec.boats.paddle. The figures specified are for actual flow, i.e. the release to the Lower less 400 cfs.
On March 10, 2000 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an order "Modifying and Approving Recreation Monitoring Plan." The plan, required by the license to operate the Kern River No. 1 Project, will monitor recreational use over a five year period in the project's bypassed reach "for the purpose of determining whether future demands for river recreation in the project's bypassed reach warrant modifications to the project's operating scheme to protect and enhance recreational values of the Kern River." The study is not limited to whitewater recreation and will include other activities directly influenced by river flows, such as "swimming, fishing, wading and recreational mining."
Settlement Agreement for Whitewater Releases from Fairview Dam
The following information related to whitewater releases from Fairview Dam is reproduced from the FERC document ORDER AMENDING LICENSE TO INCLUDE U.S. FOREST SERVICE REVISED FINAL TERMS AND CONDITIONS PURSUANT TO SECTION 4(E) OF THE FEDERAL POWER ACT (Issued May 12, 2004), Docket #P-2290-056, APPENDIX A, Section B. RECREATION RESOURCE MANAGEMENT, Condition No. 6 - Project Recreation Plan:
"f. Whitewater Recreation Flow Schedule
The Licensee shall provide the following whitewater recreation flows in the Kern River below Fairview Dam pursuant to the flow schedule set forth below beginning the date the FERC license order is final. The flow schedule is designed to allow the Licensee to continuously divert 300 cubic feet per second (cfs) into the Project powerhouse. However, this 300 cfs does not take priority over the instream flow releases required by Condition 4 above.
This flow schedule shall be discontinued for each day the California Independent System Operator, or its successor, declares a Stage II or greater power emergency. The flow schedule may be temporarily modified if required by operating emergencies beyond the control of the Licensee. If the flow schedule is discontinued or modified, the Licensee shall notify the Forest Service and FERC as soon as possible, but no later than ten (10) days after each incident.
Beginning no later than 10 a.m. and ending no earlier than 5 p.m. of each day that whitewater flows are scheduled, the Licensee shall release the whitewater flows described below into the Project bypass reach.
g. The Licensee shall provide flow information to the public for the Upper Kern River in the mechanism selected to provide flow information to the public in compliance with Article 410 of the Kern River No. 1 license."
Article 422 of the FERC ORDER ISSUING NEW LICENSE (Issued December 24, 1996) Docket #P-2290-000 appears to base the trigger flows for the above releases on the previous days average flow recorded at the gaging station above Fairview Dam:
"Article 422. The Licensee shall provide the following whitewater supplemental flow releases: between May 15 and July 15, all flow between 700 cfs and 1100 cfs shall remain in the river channel for whitewater rafting. Southern California Edison may use flows below 700 cfs and above 1100 cfs for power generation. Between May 15 and July 15, based on the preliminary gauge data at the diversion tunnel and below the Fairview Dam, the use of water under the above regime shall be based on the previous days average flow recorded at the gaging station above Fairview Dam. These releases are contingent upon the amount of water available after diverting 35 cfs for the Kern River Fish Hatchery required by the September 27, 1995 Settlement Agreement among the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Fish and Game, and the Licensee."
The flow schedule originally specified in Article 422 was appealed and revised.
According to John Gangemi, Sequoia National Forest filed the revised 4(e) conditions for the Kern River No. 3 Hydropower Project on the Kern River, California. The section 4(e) conditions have been revised from those filed in 1996 by the Sequoia National Forest to reflect the changes requested in the Settlement Agreement reached between Southern California Edison (SCE), American Whitewater, Friends of the River and other parties in December, 2002.
See Forest Service Issues Revised Conditions For Kern No. 3 Hydropower Project, (CA) on the American Whitewater web site.
American Whitewater, Friends of the River, and Southern California Edison (SCE) signed a Settlement Agreement for whitewater releases from Fairview Dam. The Agreement and revised USFS 4(e) conditions increase the number of days for whitewater releases to 39 days annually as well as matches release volumes to kayak and rafting preferences:
According to John Gangemi, American Whitewater Western Conservation & Access Director, the Settlement Agreement was submitted to the U.S. Forest Service and Ninth Circuit Court in January. As of April 2004 it is uncertain if the U.S. Forest Service plans to release the proposed schedule in an environmental assessment format for public review. Once approved by the U.S. Forest Service, SCE will adopt the whitewater schedule in the Settlement Agreement. American Whitewater encourages boaters to file comments in support of the Settlement Agreement.
KR3 License Appeal Upheld
February 26, 1999
The Forest Service has upheld the appeal of the operating conditions for the KR3 powerplant. According to an article in the Kern Valley Sun the Appeal Deciding Officer based his decision, in part, on the "Regional Forester's lack of adequate information for establishing flow schedules in the river and through the powerplant."
Most boaters, the Friends of the River, the Kernville Chamber of Commerce, Kern County officials, and others have questioned the validity of the process used to determine recreational flows in the 16 mile stretch of river de-watered by the powerplant. As noted here, In a dry year, when additional water would be critical to the local economy, SCE would get all* of the water up to 1400 cfs during the prime boating period of April 16 - July 4 weekend.
With this year's snowpack well below normal, the inadequacy of the appealed release schedule may be painfully evident.
October 28, 1998
According to an article in the October 28 issue of the Kern Valley Sun, the Kernville Chamber of Commerce, American Whitewater Association and Friends of the River have appealed the Forest Service's revised license conditions for Kern River No. 3 powerplant. (If the article is no longer available on the Kern Valley Sun web site, the story "Appeal filed on KR3 license" has been archived on our site.)
Revised KR3 License Conditions Announced by Forest Service
September 11, 1998
Excerpts from REVISED LICENSE CONDITIONS NECESSARY FOR PROTECTION AND UTILIZATION OF THE SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST IN CONNECTION WITH THE APPLICATION FOR A NEW LICENSE FOR FERC PROJECT NO. 2290-006, KERN RIVER NO. 3 HYDROELECTRIC PROJECT, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA EDISON COMPANY
When the revised flow schedule is assessed, the bottom line is that 300 cfs, or less, is added to the diverted reach when flows are above 1000 cfs (April 1-15 and after July 4 weekend-August 15) or above 1400 cfs (April 16 - July 4 weekend). The rationale for this approach is hard to understand.
The revised conditions obviously assume "average" flows, resulting from an "average" snowpack. From year to year, California weather is anything but "average." One year can be wet and the next year very dry. In a dry year, when additional water would be critical to the local economy, SCE would get all* of the water up to 1400 cfs during the prime boating period of April 16 - July 4 weekend.
*In the period April to June, a minumum flow of 100 cfs would need to be maintained in the diverted reach, but from a whitewater boating and scenic value standpoint, this is literally "fish flow."
The following river flow tables are taken from this excerpt.
Table 1. Flow Regime for the Kern River from the KR-3 Project Diversion at Fairview Dam through the Diverted Reach to the KR-3 Powerhouse
Table 2. Flow Regime for the Kern River from the KR-3 Project Diversion at Fairview Dam through the Diverted Reach to the KR-3 Powerhouse
The following are copies of articles from the Kern Valley Sun:
EXCERPTS FROM THE KR3 ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT
We've transcribed some pertinent excerpts from the document "ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT FOR HYDROPOWER LICENSE, Kern River No. 3 Hydroelectric Project, FERC Project No. 2290."
Please note that these are OCR'd transcriptions and may contain errors not in the original document.
These FERC responses to comments made regarding the (previously released) Draft Environmental Assessment may provide some insight.
FOR MORE INFORMATION