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Fish habitat at Englebright and Daguerre Point dams

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for management of  two dams -- Englebright and Daguerre Point -- on the Yuba River. These dams were built in the early 20th century by the California Debris Commission. The Corps is responsible for maintaining these dams to ensure they continue to function in accordance with their Congressionally-authorized purposes. The Corps must also ensure that its maintenance activities do not jeopardize fish species listed by the federal resource agencies as threatened.  Therefore, the Corps has incorporated several conservation measures into its maintenance activities to minimize impacts to listed species.
image - click for Yuba River Ecosystem Restoration Study info

Two dams on the Yuba River

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Hydraulic mining in the Yuba River watershed during the mid-1800s contributed large quantities of sediment to the Yuba River. About 600 million cubic yards of material exposed by hydraulic mining entered the river between 1849 and 1909. The sediment deposited in the channel raised the channel bed to the point that in 1868 it was higher than the streets in Marysville. Subsequent flooding of Marysville in the late 1800s led to attempts to mitigate the adverse effects of hydraulic mining.


Efforts to control sediment came together with a project known as the “1898 Project.” This project involved controlling sediment with several small dams and building gravel berms to confine the low-water channel. In 1901, the California Debris Commission approved a plan to construct four barrier dams, which were authorized under the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1902.

Both Englebright and Daguerre Point dams were authorized by Congress for the purpose of retaining hydraulic mining debris to protect navigation in the Feather and Sacramento rivers and were built in the first half of the 20th century by the California Debris Commission. The primary purpose of both dams was to control debris from hydraulic mining pursuant to the California Debris Commission’s duty under the California Debris Act to restore the navigability of rivers in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems.

Daguerre Point Dam is located on the lower Yuba River, approximately 10 miles east of Marysville, Calif. The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1902 authorized the construction of the Yuba River Debris Control Project, of which Daguerre Point Dam is a part. MAP

The California Debris Commission built the original Daguerre Point Dam in 1906 as part of the later Yuba River Debris Control Project, but the river was not diverted over the dam until 1910.

Two fishways, one for low water and the other for high water, were constructed at Daguerre Point Dam prior to the floods of 1927-1928. In the fall of 1938, a fish ladder was installed at the southerly end of the dam. In August 1951, two new fish ladders were completed on the Daguerre Point Dam by the State of California, Division of Fish and Game.

In 1964, the Corps met with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game (now the California Department of Fish and Wildlife) to discuss and develop criteria for the reconstruction and modification of the existing fishways, including the dimensions and depth of the fishway bays.

In October 1965, the Corps completed the repair of the fish ladders at Daguerre Point Dam using federal and state contributed funds. The current configuration of Daguerre Point Dam is an overflow concrete ogee (“s-shaped”) spillway with concrete apron and concrete abutments.

The ogee spillway section is 575 feet wide and 24 feet tall. The Corps implements various maintenance actions at the fish ladders, including regularly clearing debris from fish ladder entrances to improve fish passage.

 

Englebright Dam is part of the Sacramento River and Tributaries project, which was authorized by the Rivers and Harbors Act of Aug. 30, 1935. It was built by the California Debris Commission in 1941 and consists of a concrete arch structure that spans 1,142 feet across and 260 feet high and serves as a debris dam. It is located east of Marysville, Calif., in a steep Yuba River gorge known as “The Narrows.” Englebright Lake is 9 miles long with a surface area of 815 acres. MAP 

Because Englebright Dam was built as a sediment retention facility (debris dam) it does not contain a low-level outlet. Unregulated flood flows spill over Englebright Dam. Since about 1970 to the present, controlled flow releases from Englebright Reservoir into the lower Yuba River have been made from the PG&E Narrows I and the Yuba County Water Agency Narrows II power plants, both Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)-licensed facilities.

The Corps’ ongoing activities of Englebright Dam infrastructure pertain to dam maintenance, safety and security. The Corps does not have authority or discretion to control Narrows I, Narrows II, or Englebright Reservoir operations regarding water releases.

The water stored in Englebright Reservoir provides recreation and hydroelectric power, and YCWA and PG&E administer water releases for hydroelectric power, irrigation and other uses.

 

Upon decommissioning of the California Debris Commission in the Water Resources Development Act of 1986 (WRDA 1986), “all authorities, powers, functions and duties of the California Debris Commission were transferred to the Secretary of the Army.” Pursuant to WRDA 1986, administration of Daguerre Point Dam and Englebright Dam was assumed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Endangered species act consultation

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2012 Jeopardy Biological Opinion

On Feb. 29, 2012, NMFS issued a jeopardy biological opinion (2012 BiOp) on the impacts of the Englebright and Daguerre Point dams to threatened fish species in the Yuba River - meaning it had concluded that the dams jeopardized the existence of the species. 

The 2012 biological opinion required actions that are outside of the Corps' authority, such as construction of facilities or other actions that would allow for fish passage at Englebright Dam. It also recommended the eventual removal of both dams - which requires additional Congressional authorization and appropriation and is outside of the Corps’ existing statutory  authority to implement. 

On July 3, 2012 the Corps transmitted a letter to NMFS memorializing the Corps’ concerns regarding the 2012 biological opinion, which were related to the description of the proposed action and action area; NMFS' approach to baseline effects; the scientific basis for the analysis and conclusions; the scope and breadth of the reasonable and prudent alternatives and the reasonable and prudent measures associated with the incidental take statement; and the limitations of the Corps’ authorities.

2013 Court Memorandum and Order

On Aug. 13, 2013, the United States District Court, Eastern District of California issued a Memorandum and Order, granting the U.S. government’s motion to stay two lawsuits brought by the South Yuba Citizen’s League (SYRCL) and the Yuba County Water Agency (YCWA), respectively, regarding the 2012 biological opinion.  YCWA filed suit on January 10, 2013 challenging the legal and technical sufficiency of the 2012 biological opinion and SYRCL filed a lawsuit on Jan. 11, 2013 challenging NMFS’ decision to extend the deadlines in the 2012 biological opinion.

The Memorandum and Order directed the Corps to complete its 2013 biological assessment by Oct. 22, 2013 and to continue its ongoing efforts to ameliorate any adverse effects of operating and maintaining the dams. These ongoing conservation measures include: inspection and maintenance of the Daguerre fish ladders; placement and monitoring of 5,000 tons of gravel for spawning habitat; salmonid redd surveys as specified in the 2012 biological opinion; and placement and monitoring of large woody material between Englebright and Daguerre. The Corps has complied with the terms of the court’s order.

In accordance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations, the mere existence of the dams, as authorized by Congress, is a non-discretionary activity, and is therefore not subject to the consultation requirements in the ESA. The Corps has a non-discretionary duty to maintain the structures and ensure they continue to serve their Congressionally-authorized purposes. This non-discretionary duty is not an “action” subject to consultation under the ESA. 

On Feb. 26, 2013, the Corps requested re-initiation of formal consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service under ESA Section 7. The Corps informed NMFS that it intended to provide “additional information and clarification” on the scope, nature and effects of the proposed action, the scope of its authorities and discretion, and scientific and technical information on the ESA-listed fish species. The Corps and NMFS then agreed to a schedule under which the Corps would provide such information by Oct. 22, 2013.

Although the Corps had previously analyzed the effects of its discretionary activities for both dams in a single biological assessment, on Oct. 22, 2013 the Corps transmitted separate biological assessments to NMFS for each dam. Separate biological assessments were appropriate because each dam was built under a separation authorization and appropriation and the dams are wholly separate projects.

The activities undertaken at one are not dependent upon decisions made at the other. These biological assessments more clearly defined and evaluated the potential effects of the Corps' limited ongoing discretionary activities at both facilities -- those things which the Corps has the ability to act upon without further Congressional action.

The biological assessments made a clear distinction between the discretionary and non-discretionary actions by deconstructing the proposed action  to help clarify exactly what the Corps is consulting on in contrast with other separate projects on the Yuba River.

 

Ongoing conservation measures

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Daguerre Point Dam ongoing maintenance

During the past 10 years, the Corps has made other changes to its operation and maintenance of the fish ladders at Daguerre Point Dam to improve conditions for fish. Such measures include clearing accumulated sediment just upstream of the dam, approving the use of flashboards on the dam to improve attraction flows at the ladder exits and increasing the frequency of inspections and debris removal.

Spawning gravel

To date, the Corps has taken many positive steps to improve habitat in the Yuba River.  A program to add gravel to the river to provide spawning habitat, designed by Dr. Greg Pasternack of the University of California-Davis, has been underway since 2007.  To date, more than 15,000 tons of gravel have been added to the lower Yuba River, just downstream of Englebright Dam, to enhance spawning habitat for threatened fish.  The Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission has documented that Chinook salmon have been using the spawning habitat.

Salmonid redd surveys

The most current survey of salmonid redds (nests), conducted by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, is is available HERE and reflects the fishes' use of the gravel added to the streambed for spawning.

Large woody materials

In early December 2013, the Corps placed large woody materials into the lower Yuba River upstream of Daguerre Point Dam as part of the Corps’ ongoing conservation measures to further improve habitat.  This pilot program will improve cover and diversity of in-stream habitat for rearing juvenile anadromous salmonids, and provide increased cover, food sources and micro-habitat complexity. Full report HERE.

 

In March 2014, Congress provided $150,000 for a reconnaissance study.

Given that the Corps cannot remove the dams or make major structural modifications or changes to the authorized purposes without Congressional authorization and appropriation, the reconnaissance study was the next step in determining what more can be done to improve fish passage conditions.

A reconnaissance study allows the Corps to identify the scope of a problem, begin to develop possible solutions and to identify potential cost-share partners who would participate in the more detailed feasibility study and ultimately assist in implementing the solution.

RECONNAISSANCE STUDY -- Section 905(b) analysis

PHOTO SET -- Flickr

image - salmon at Daguerre Point Dam

Salmon habitat restoration



Frequently Asked Questions

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Fishways (or "fish ladders") have been part of the Daguerre Point Dam facility since the early 1920s and their design has been updated through the years in coordination with California Fish and Wildlife.

A fish ladder is a structure to facilitate anadromous fishes' natural migration. Most fishways enable fish to pass around the barriers by swimming and leaping up a series of relatively low steps (hence the term ladder) into the waters on the other side.

 

President Barack Obama’s proposed fiscal year 2015 budget, released March 4, 2014, provided $150,000 for a reconnaissance study plus $200,000 toward a follow-on restoration feasibility study
 
Given that the Corps cannot remove the dams or make major structural modifications or changes to the authorized purposes without Congressional authorization and appropriation, the reconnaissance study is the next step in determining what more can be done to improve fish passage conditions.

The reconnaissance study allows the Corps to identify the scope of a problem, begin to develop possible solutions and to identify potential cost-share partners who would participate in the more detailed feasibility study and ultimately assist in implementing the solution.
 
The feasibility study would explore in greater depth any restoration opportunities identified in the reconnaissance study. The proposed funding is a clear sign of the president’s and the Corps’ strong commitment to thoroughly exploring all options for habitat improvement measures as quickly as possible.

 

The authorized purpose for both dams is debris control, and our obligation is to continue to maintain the dams for that purpose.

At Daguerre Point Dam, the Corps is responsible for routine maintenance of the dam and ensures that the fish ladders function as designed. Because fish passage is not an authorized project purpose at Englebright, our activities are limited to routine maintenance of the dam and the recreation facilities at Englebright Lake.

 

Although we had previously analyzed the effects of operation and maintenance activities for both dams in a single biological assessment, in October 2013 we transmitted separate biological assessments to the National Marine Fisheries Service for each dam. Separate biological assessments were appropriate because each dam was built under a separate authorization and appropriation and the dams are wholly separate projects. The activities at one are not dependent upon decisions made at the other.

 

Both Englebright and Daguerre Point dams were built by California Debris Commission in the early 20th century to hold back hydraulic mining debris that would otherwise have passed into the navigable channels of the Feather and Sacramento Rivers. With the abolishment of the CDC in the Water Resources Development Act of 1986, Congress transferred responsibility for these CDC projects to the Corps. The Corps is required to ensure our discretionary activities at these dams complies with the Endangered Species Act.

To improve habitat made accessible by the fish ladders at Daguerre Point Dam, the Corps is implementing several ongoing conservation measures in the reach of the lower Yuba River between the two dams, including gravel augmentation, large woody debris placement and salmonid redd surveys.

The Federal Power Act, Section 4(e) (16 U.S.C. 797(e)), allows federal agencies to prescribe conditions to ensure Federal Engergy Regulatory Commission licenses are not inconsistent with the purposes of a project.

Englebright Dam is a debris dam that was authorized for the purpose of retaining hydraulic mining debris and later for hydropower. The Corps role will involve reviewing documentation and providing input to ensure that the new FERC license does not impact the Corps’ ability to carry out its congressionally-authorized project purpose.

However, if the FERC license triggers Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, the Corps will be responsible for processing a permit for that action.