California utility drafts request to begin Battle Creek restoration

Pacific Gas &Electric Co. is preparing a request to amend the license of its 37.9-MW Battle Creek project to allow removal of five diversion dams and construction of fish ladders and screens at three other diversions on Battle Creek, a tributary of California’s Sacramento River.

PG&E anticipates it soon will file an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as the next step of the Battle Creek Salmon and Steelhead Restoration project, which the utility and resource agencies first endorsed in 1999. As part of the agreement, PG&E would continue to operate the project’s five hydropower plants.

The California Department of Fish and Game notified PG&E and the Bureau of Reclamation March 14 that it will provide $67 million toward dam removal and fish ladder and screen construction. The Fish and Game allotment will be added to funding from several other sources.

PG&E estimates its overall cost for the program will total $51 million for reduced generation as a result of less water passing through three project powerhouses. The estimate is up from a 1999 estimate of $20.5 million.

The work is intended to re-establish endangered and threatened Chinook salmon and steelhead in northern California. About 42 miles of salmon and steelhead habitat on Battle Creek is to be re-established.

The Department of Fish and Game, PG&E, BuRec, National Marine Fisheries Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed the memorandum of understanding for the program in June 1999. A final environmental impact statement was issued in 2005.

In addition to FERC approval to amend the Battle Creek license (No. 1121), BuRec must sign a record of decision committing to the program. The first construction contract can be awarded once FERC makes a determination on the license amendment application.

The program is expected to be contracted in two phases. It will include modifications to sites on North Fork Battle Creek, South Fork Battle Creek, Ripley Creek, and Soap Creek. The Wildcat, Coleman, South, Lower Ripley Creek, and Soap Creek diversion dams are to be decommissioned. Fish screens and ladders are to be constructed at Inskip, Eagle Canyon, and North Battle Creek Feeder diversion dams.

Less water will pass through three power plants, 7-MW South, 8-MW Inskip, and 13-MW Coleman. However, generation at 9-MW Volta and 0.9-MW Volta 2 powerhouses will be unaffected.

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