Lahontan Water Quality Control Board
2501 Lake Tahoe Boulevard
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
Regarding: Truckee River Dam
Dear Mr. Short-
I recently became aware of Sierra Pacific Power's proposal to rebuild the dam at Farad. Even though I am an advisor to the Truckee River Habitat Restoration Group, active in TROA negotiations, a licensed flyfishing guide on the Truckee River and three years into filming an underwater documentary of the Truckee River, I had never heard of this proposal until a month after the deadline for public input. As a Truckee resident I duly read the local papers and watch the local TV news and have never seen mention of the proposal and request for input.
I wish to make a formal request that an extension be granted for public input and that the media be used to adequately inform the public.
I have been performing SCUBA and snorkel surveys of the Truckee River since 1976. In the mid seventies and through the eighties, California Department of Fish and Game fisheries biologist Russ Wickwire and I would frequently discuss my underwater observations.
This year alone I have logged over 1,000 hours in the river filming the aquatic environment. I have spent a tremendous amount of time below the Floriston diversion both before and after the flood. The change has been dramatic.
Prior to its destruction, the minimum flows below the dam created a silted streambed with a high level of streambed aggradation unsuitable for many of the Truckee's macro invertebrates. The water temperature was commonly ten degrees warmer below the diversion than above. In the below-dam reach, the diversity of macroinvertebrates was noticeably diminished. The environment was clearly hostile to many of species indigenous to that area of the river.
The below-dam reach was dominated by burrowing diptera, silty water mayflies such as Caenis and Tricorythodes, clams, and supported high temperature-tolerant non native fish species such as carp and green sunfish. After the destruction of the dam the health of the river immediately improved and with it an increase in overall bio diversity. Today it is a complex and rich environment that provides a multitude of niches that favor native species of all types.
When the dam was in place, mid summer conditions below the dam would drive virtually all of the trout and whitefish downstream into the relatively cooler pools where they would huddle in abnormally dense masses, subject to predation, disease and malnutrition. In the winter, one of the only places in the entire Truckee system where one could predictably find anchor ice was immediately downstream of the diversion. This is clearly not a normal condition in a healthy Truckee environment.
At peak performance, the diversion is projected to produce only 2.5 megawatts of power. This minimal benefit pales in the face of its cost to the aquatic environment and to users of the environment such as anglers, rafters, and nature observers.
Please review the number of times Sierra Pacific Power has historically disregarded minimum stream flow requirements. The very fact that Sierra Pacific Power feels an environmental impact report is "unwarranted" shows their contempt and disregard for the Truckee River environment. Please use all the power at your disposal to derail this project before it goes further.
Ralph F. Cutter
The following is from Friends of the River
Public Meeting Scheduled Concerning Farad Dam Reconstruction On The Truckee River
The Sierra Pacific Power Company (SPPC) is hosting a public meeting on Thursday, July 22 to inform the public about the utility_s plan to reconstruct the Farad diversion dam on the Truckee River.
The dam formerly diverted much of the river into a wooden flume to supply water to a 2.5 megawatt hydroelectric power plant about 2 miles downstream. The dam was destroyed by the 1997-98 flood. Now SPPC wants to reconstruct it and reinitiate the diversion.
The problem is that the Farad diversion often leaves less than 50 cubic feet per second of water flowing in the Truckee River, particularly during late summer/early fall months and extended drought periods. State fish and game officials consider the optimum flow needed to maintain healthy fisheries on this stretch of the Truckee to be 250 cfs and the minimum flow to be 150 cfs. The Truckee formerly supported the Lahontan cutthroat trout, a federally protected threatened species. The federal recovery plan for this species intends to restore this native trout to the Truckee River. But it is highly unlikely that cutthroat could be restored to the stretch of the river impacted by the Farad diversion if the dam is reconstructed.
Snorkel surveys of the river conducted over the last 23 years indicate that the Farad diversion has had a significant adverse impact on the Truckee River_s aquatic ecosystem. Prior to its destruction, the minimum flows below the Farad dam created a silted streambed unsuitable to sustain healthy insect populations (the basis of the aquatic food chain). The water temperature was commonly ten degrees warmer below the diversion than above. Below the dam, the diversity of insect species was noticeably diminished. The environment was clearly hostile to many of species indigenous to that area of the river. The diverted stretch was dominated by aquatic species that preferred degraded habitats, including non-native warm water fish species. After the destruction of the dam, the health of the river immediately improved. Today, it is a complex and rich environment that provides a multitude of habitat niches favoring native species of all types.
SPPC will be sharing with the public its plans to provide a notch in the proposed reconstructed dam to allow for safe boat passage and fish migration over the dam. However, the Truckee_s aquatic ecosystem, fishery, and recreational values for angler and boater alike cannot be restored unless minimum instream flows below the reconstructed dam are significantly increased. Of course, the optimum environmental alternative is to not rebuild the dam at all.
What You Can Do:
Attend the SPPC public meeting concerning the Farad dam reconstruction project on Thursday, July 22, 6:30 p.m., at the SPPC office auditorium, 6100 Neil Road, in Reno. Please use the employee entrance since the front entrance will be locked. For more information concerning the meeting, please contact Larry Blalock at SPPC, (775) 834-4668. Feel free to incorporate all or some of the issues listed below and submit them as verbal comments at the meeting.
The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board is the California agency responsible for assessing the impacts of the Farad dam reconstruction on the Truckee River_s environment. Board staff are still accepting comments from the public concerning the key environmental issues, potential impacts, and mitigation measures that should be addressed under the California Environmental Quality Act. Please write a letter today to the Water Board and encourage them to:
Require a full environmental impact report (EIR) to assess the impacts of the proposed dam reconstruction.
Ensure that the EIR consider at least one "no dam reconstruction" alternative.
Ensure that the EIR consider in all alternatives that permit dam reconstruction significantly increased minimum instream flows (at least 150-250 cfs) to restore and maintain sport fish and native fish populations, including rainbow trout, Lahontan cutthroat trout, and mountain whitefish.
If it is reconstructed, require the project to release sufficient flows to meet all beneficial uses of the Truckee River established in the Lahontan Basin Plan, including aquatic habitat, fish and other aquatic organisms, endangered species, wildlife, angling, whitewater boating, and other water-oriented recreational activities.
If its is reconstructed, require a 401 certificate for the project to ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act.
If it is reconstructed, ensure that the dam is designed for the safe passage of whitewater boaters and unhindered migration of fish at all flow levels.
Address your letter to John Short, Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, 2501 Lake Tahoe Boulevard, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150, Fax: (530)-544-2271. Email: email@example.com.
Steven L. Evans, Conservation Director, Friends of the River
915 20th Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-442-3155 Ext. 221, Fax:916-442-3396
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.friendsoftheriver.org
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