OPEN LETTER ABOUT PIT RIVER FLOWS from cottonfibre Galland, Clearwater House on Hat Creek
Fellow anglers, there has been a great deal of concern over the proposed new flows for the Pit River. Clearwater’s guides and I spend many days on all the Pit reaches each season. Let me give you our perspective.
First, remember that these flows are proposed flows only. It is up to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission(FERC) to decide upon the final flows. Now is the time for us to express our views to the state and federal resource agencies. We must speak up if we want to keep Pit 3 an accessible fishery.
Some background: based on the extensive studies of the Pit over the past three years, the proposed flows in the canyon are good for the fish and will very likely lead to an increase in both numbers and size of fish in the river. This is a benefit that we can all support.
And let’s recognize that the relicensing process by law must address the needs of all legitimate user groups and concerned agencies. These include anglers, whitewater boaters, native peoples, state and federal resource agencies, hunters, hikers, and the like.
The challenge that the relicensing group has faced has been a daunting one: to balance the needs of the various users and the needs of the fish in such a way as to satisfy the greatest number of requirements. What flows are best for the fish, the eagles, frogs, as well as the different users?
We can argue that anglers, and particularly fly fishers, are the largest single user group. If the flows are so high that we can’t fish the river, then increased flows are clearly not a benefit to us.
Based on the reports from my guides after they fished the test flows in August of 2002, we can live with the higher flows proposed for Pit 4 and Pit 5. The canyon is wider in these reaches and even with more water, we will have reasonable access.
The proposed whitewater releases in August and September are problematic. While I am a whitewater enthusiast myself and I support the right of legitimate user groups to be considered in the relicensing process, I fear that the timing of these flows in late summer will spell the end of the substantial Isonychia mayfly populations in Pit 5. The nymphs are at their largest in those months, swimming actively in the slower water. I suspect that quadrupling the flows for two weekends at this critical point in their life cycle will wash most of them into Pit 6 reservoir or strand them in the shallow margins of the river when the water recedes. I fear that trout will be stranded as well in these unnatural spike flows. These releases must be careful monitored, as proposed in the plan. If fish and bugs are greatly impacted, these flows should be adjusted.
The major problem for fly fishers is the proposed flows in the Pit 3 reach. This 6 miles of water, from Lake Britton Dam to the Pit 3 Powerhouse, represents only 25% of the fishable river under consideration in the relicensing, but it is the most heavily fished. It is the shortest reach, closest to the services of Burney, the State Park and campgrounds. It is the most accessible from the canyon road and is the smallest canyon. It is also the best-known reach because it has had special regulations since it was rewatered in 1986 with a base flow of 150cfs.
When we test-fished Pit 3 in the summer of 2002, the two test flows were one of about 165cfs and a second at 400cfs. The first was essentially the normal flow and the second was completely unfishable. We didn’t have a 200 or 250 or 300 cfs test because of valve limitations at Lake Britton dam.
While we don’t know how 200 or 300cfs would fish, we can say that 400 cfs made the river unwadeable and virtually unfishable. My guides and I believe that 300cfs – twice the current flow - will create much the same situation. The consequence will be to increase pressure on the other Pit reaches and the other waters in the Intermountain area – Hat and Burney Creeks, the McCloud, the upper Sacramento. These increased flows could also result in a reduction in visitors to the area because Pit 3 is the most popular freestone fishery in the Intermountain area.
California Trout and Trout Unlimited/California, as members of the relicensing group, proposed base flows of 200 cfs for Pit 3 because the studies suggest that 200cfs will provide good water temperatures for the fish and still allow reasonable access for anglers. The committee as a whole decided to go with 300cfs because it was the best flow for the fish and habitat, without any apparent consideration of anglers’ needs.
We must let the agencies know that we support the proposal by CalTrout and TU/California for 200cfs in Pit 3. That the science suggests that 200cfs will provide good water temperatures for the fish and allow reasonable angler access. That we support the proposed flows in 4 and 5 because we wish to see the benefits to the fish and we believe we can still enjoy reasonable access at those levels. That 300 cfs in Pit 3 is unacceptable because we believe with that much water, the narrow canyon and steep banks will make the river virtually unfishable.
If you love the Pit River, it’s bright, wild trout, and the sense of solitude in the canyon, now is the time to speak up! Send letters and emails supporting 200 cfs in Pit 3 to the following agency people:
Ms Anne Manji
California Department of Fish and Game
601 Locust Street
Redding, CA 96001
Hat Creek Ranger District
PO Box 220
Fall River Mills, CA 96028
Mr. J. Mark Robinson, Director
Office of Energy Projects
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20426
No email. Write a letter.
Let CalTrout and TU know you’re concerned about this issue: