Academic Tour

Flow Needs & Challenges

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The non-Yuba portions of the problem-shed include a number of sites that are worthy candidates for conservation action in their own right. Among these are the "salmon occupied" reaches of the lower Bear River as well as Auburn Ravine/Coon Creek (PDF*, 33 KB), Dry Creek/Secret Ravine/Miners Ravine (PDF*, 24 KB), and Dry Creek/Spenceville (PDF*, 19 KB); the middle reach of the Bear River, where Gold-Rush era mercury deposits continue to cause problems; and the upper reaches of the Bear, including a viable native trout fishery (in Bear Valley) that was already the focus of important restoration efforts.

Upper Reach

While modest flow improvements would no-doubt be beneficial in the upper reaches of the Bear, our efforts came to focus on its middle and lower reaches, and on the various foothill streams, where diversions are greatest, where flow improvements will depend on the effective re-management of co-mingled inter-basin supplies, and where the regional potential to protect and restore anadramous fish across a diverse array of sites remains high. (In each instance, of course, both flow and non-flow improvements will be needed.) Work to improve flows across a diverse array of sites also underscores the need for a region-wide alliance of restoration advocates.

Middle Reach

The middle reach of the Bear River is perhaps the least understood of the sites noted above when it comes to identifying flow-related improvement needs and opportunities. Key challenges for the middle Bear include the following:

Lower Reach

In the lower reach of the Bear, flow improvements may be easier to justify due to the below-dam potential for anadramous fishery restoration; these, in turn, could also serve as a "magnet" for accompanying middle-reach improvements. Even so, a number of problems remain:

Restoration Advocates

In addition to all the above, any effort to improve flows in the Bear River system will depend on the development of agreements and understandings with Nevada Irrigation District (PDF*, 33 KB), Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PDF*, 22 KB), South Sutter Water District (PDF*, 19 KB), Placer County Water Agency (PDF*, 46 KB), and possibly other entities who control and manage water in the system. Flow improvement initiatives can also be advanced through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license renewal processes for the Drum-Spaulding, Yuba-Bear, and Middle Fork hydropower projects, and/or through other regulatory proceedings, however cooperative strategies have been the focus of this project.

Finally, the contemporary reliance on Yuba (and to a lesser extent American) River imports into the Bear River system leads to concerns among advocates for those resources when considering Bear River and related flow improvements that might constrain future opportunities to "recapture" even a portion of those supplies.

Continue your tour with strategic responses to Bear River problems …

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