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Vann hits feds on removing Yuba River dams
The fate of Englebright and Daguerre Point dams is entering the 3rd Congressional District race as an issue, after Republican challenger Kim Vann joined criticism of a federal study suggesting they be removed.
Vann, a Colusa County supervisor who is trying to unseat US Rep. John Garamendi, said the opinion by the National Marine Fisheries Service doesn't look at the whole picture.
"The agencies are not working together, and they're not communicating with each other," said Vann.
Englebright and Daguerre Point, in the early stages of relicensing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, are operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers.
But the Fisheries Service biological opinion, released in February as part of the relicensing process, suggested the dams be removed to aid recovery for three endangered fish species native to the Yuba.
Environmental groups, such as the South Yuba River Citizens' League, have concurred in those opinions, saying the dams' initial purpose for flood and debris control no longer applies because of improvements elsewhere.
"It is well known that the upper Yuba River is one of the best places to restore these threatened species, which is why the Biological Opinion calls for fish passage above the Army Corps' dams," said the Citizen League's executive director, Caleb Dardick, in an email.
Vann said such opinions fly in the face of reality, with mercury, a holdover from the river's mining days, likely to cause widespread harm if the dams are removed.
"When you add in the other environmental concerns, it shows you need to look at the issue in total," she said.
Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, was unavailable for comment Friday.
Earlier this month, a scheduling conflict prevented Vann from touring the dam with US Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. But Vann said she still believes she can push the issue if elected.
Her concern follows that of retiring US Rep. Wally Herger, who sent acting US Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank a letter last month requesting intervention in the issue. The Fisheries Services is part of the Department of Commerce.
"I also noted in my letter that the opinion is rife with factual errors and unsupported conclusions; calls upon the Corps to take actions that are not technically feasible; requires them to meet a schedule that is clearly not achievable; and calls for numerous actions that are neither legally authorized nor funded," Herger, R-Chico, wrote in the Sept. 5 letter.
Vann said the issue also needs to be explored more because of not only increased flood danger if the dams are removed, but the loss of recreation.
"If we take the hard-line approaches, rather than an overall focus, we're really doing ourselves a disservice," she said.