Pit River in Shasta County DFG study

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PIT FLOW STUDY SET

DFG Press Release

4/27/02

REDDING--Fishing and other recreational activities may be more of a challenge along a 20-mile stretch of the Pit River in Shasta County during a one-week period in early May, but Mother Nature could be the long-term beneficiary, says the Department of Fish and Game.

The DFG's Region 1 office in Redding said river flows between Lake Britton and Pacific Gas and Electric's "Pit 5" powerhouse near Big Bend will be stepped up from 150 cubic feet per second to 1,200 cfs from May 5 through May 10, then back to 150 cfs by May 12.

Purpose of the experimental flows is to map the elevation and character of the river during the various flow levels in preparation for a similar flow boost in August during which a host of scientists and recreationists will evaluate the potential benefits of higher water.
The study project has been developed through a

cooperative effort by public and private sector interests, including PG&E, the DFG, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the State Water Resources Control Board, U.S. Forest Service, Pit River Indian Tribe, Cal Trout, the state Department of Parks and Recreation, the National Parks Service and American Whitewater, a rafting interest.

At the root of the project is the approach of the federal relicensing process for PG&E's three hydroelectric projects along the 20-mile reach of the Pit River. Water is run through three generators known as Pit 3, Pit 4 and Pit 5, which were licensed by the federal government up to 50 years ago to divert river water out of the river course, through hydro generators and then back into the river.

The result, the DFG said, has been a reduction in the natural flow over most of the targeted 20-mile reach of the Pit River from historic average summer volumes of 2,000 cfs to the presently licensed flow of a mere 150 cfs. With the license renewals set to cover the next 30 to 50 years, Fish and Game and other interests are considering a request that the 150 cfs be boosted to a higher amount that would be healthier for the river ecosystem.

"We will be looking at a wide range of natural and recreational considerations, from the effects of higher flows on bald eagles that nest and forage for fish to fish habitat to water quality to white-water boating," said Annie Manji, DFG environmental scientist in Redding.

Manji said Fish and Game aniticipates that fishing and other recreation along the Pit River--which includes a seven-mile-stretch below Lake Britton that is managed as a wild trout area--may be temporarily affected by the staggered flows. Trout, she said, tend to change their feeding habits when their environment is suddenly altered.

Over the long term, however, a consistently higher flow throughout the 20 miles of river could translate into higher fish populations, better eagle foraging and a generally richer ecosystem for fish, wildlife and vegetation, Manji said.

She said the full scientific evaluation of the river flows will take place during the period Aug. 4 through Sept. 3, when officials will step up the water volume to a high of 1,800 cfs before returning it to 150 cfs.
 
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