Daguerre Point Dam project draws criticism
A proposed hydroelectric project at Daguerre Point Dam heard plenty of feedback, most of it negative and most of it from outside the region, at a meeting Monday afternoon in Marysville.
Officials from Archon Energy LLC, a Canadian company, said they were confident they could build something to help, not harm, endangered fish runs on the Yuba River, but many speakers said they would throw the idea back.
"This river has been highly discussed, highly studied, highly fought over for the last few decades," said Janet Cohen, a Nevada County resident and former director with the South Yuba River Citizens League, which has opposed the project.
She and several other speakers said the Yuba, which is a focal point for groups hoping to restore runs of Chinook and steelhead salmon and the green sturgeon, may be a bad place for Archon to apply for its project with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
In the company's preplanning document filed in July, Archon proposed using new technology, called an Archimedes screw, to generate energy from the river at the dam. Kevin Ablett, Archon's chief operating officer, said the project would produce enough energy to power every home in Marysville and Linda.
And because the screw wouldn't harm fish as they swam past, he said, it would make it easier for the endangered species to travel down river.
"This is not a fish blender," he said. "It's so slow it gives the fish an opportunity to figure out what's happening and scoot right in."
He said his company was also open to further studies, and poss bly other mitigation measures, such as installing fish screens, to help mollify opposition.
But Daguerre Point Dam itself was a sticking point for many speakers. SYRCL and others have seized on a National Marine Fisheries Service report earlier this year suggesting the dam could be removed entirely to help fish passage.
"Please don't confuse restoration for mitigation," said Gary Reedy, SYRCL's science director. "There can't be any preclusion possible of the best possible modification of Daguerre Point Dam."
Jessie Raeder, a Bay Area resident and president of the group SalmonAid, went a step further, bringing a person dressed as a fish up with her when she spoke.
"This is the wrong river for this project," she said as the costumed character, whom she called Flo, gestured in agreement. "Daguerre Point is to me a ghost dam. Its days are numbered."
Three speakers out of about 15 said they supported the project, or at least were willing to keep an open mind. And when they polled the 50 or so people who attended the meeting, fewer than half a dozen acknowledged being from Yuba County.
"We need to build stuff before we're taken over by absolutism," said Mark Mulliner, business manager for a union of plumbers, steamfitters and refrigeration workers based in Yuba City. "There's no reason this can't happen and satisfy everyone's concerns."
Monday's meeting begins a 60-day comment period for the project with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, though some speakers suggested the period was likely to be extended.
Archon isn't scheduled to formally apply for a license for the project until next year at the soonest.
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.