Englebright Dam Safe

From the Appeal Democrat:

Posted: Sunday, May 18, 2014 12:10 am

In this tale, there’s a water agency that wants to continue to provide hydroelectric power, irrigation districts that want to continue providing water for crops and conservation groups that want to see an endangered species return to its former glory.

Connected to all of these interests is Englebright Dam — a 280-foot-high structure built to hold back 28 million cubic yards of toxic sediment left over from hydraulic mining during the Gold Rush.

It also houses the Narrows 2 powerhouse, run by the Yuba County Water Agency and, in the eyes of conservation groups such as the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL), a complete barrier to miles of historic spawning ground for endangered spring-run Chinook salmon, steelhead and green sturgeon.

And for the fifth time in 12 years, there’s a new government consensus, known as a biological opinion, on the effect of Englebright Dam on endangered fish.

The latest biological opinion, released this week, concurred with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ stance that their proposed actions to maintain and operate Englebright Dam would not adversely affect endangered fish.

It is a reversal of the stance of the previous opinion — that the dam poses a threat to endangered species — and leaves out many of the mitigation measures that environmental groups went to court to force the National Marine Fisheries Service to include.

It has left conservation groups outraged.

“(The opinion) represents a 180-degree reversal from NMFS’ position in February 2012 when it found that not only are the Corps’ dams placing salmon in jeopardy of extinction, but that the Corps is obligated to take a series of actions to improve conditions for salmon in the Yuba River,” said Caleb Dardick, executive director of the South Yuba River Citizens League.

But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains the dam, said the new opinion more accurately reflects the scope of its responsibilities and funding from Congress.


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