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Kern River Access, Conservation and Water News

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Borel Relicensing
KR1 Relicensing
KR3 Relicensing
User Fees for Private Boaters on the Kern?
Delonegha Boat Launch and River Access Project

Borel Hydroelectric Project Relicensing

Southern California Edison Company (SCE) is preparing an Application for License to renew its existing license for the Borel Hydroelectric Project, FERC Project No. 382. The Borel Canal diverts water from Lake Isabella to the Borel Powerplant, dewatering one of the few class III sections of the Kern River, the Dam Run. Following is some additional info:

Borel Flow Study and Information.

Boater Alert: Comments needed for Borel hydro project on the Lower Kern River.

Letter Regarding Meeting at Lake Isabella July 14, 2000.

Delonegha Boat Launch and River Access Project

June 1, 2002. Construction of the Delonegha Boat Launch and River Access has been completed. The boat launch and river access point is at the Highway 178 bridge near Delonegha Hot Springs on the Hobo Campground to Democrat section of the Lower Kern. The access point is approximately 7 miles downstream of the Hobo Rapid put-in and 4 miles upstream of the Democrat takeout. The day use area is accessible from both the east and west sides of Highway 178.

Funding for the project was provided by the California Department of Boating and Waterways, the Bureau of Land Management, the California Resources Agency, and the Forest Service.

KR1 - SCE Kern River Project #1

Southern California Edison (SCE) diverts 426 cfs from the river at Democrat Dam, just below the takeout for the Lower Run, and returns it to the river at the SCE powerhouse KR1, two miles upstream from the mouth of Kern Canyon. This reduces the flow on the Cadillacs, Richbar and Cataracts runs. All three sections, collectively, are referred to as the Kern Below Democrat, or the dated designation, the "Cataracts of the Kern."

As part of the relicensing process, a coalition of river interests including the American Whitewater and Friends of the River, requested that whitewater flow studies be done on this section of river in order to characterize flow levels, establish optimum flows, and assess recreational value. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) agreed and in the Fall of 1995 WRC Environmental coordinated the study.

Keith Beck posted the results of the flow study on The figures specified are for actual flow, i.e. the release to the Lower less 400 cfs.

  • Low boatable (a minority of paddlers would be satisfied): 500-700 cfs
  • Low Minimum (majority would be satisfied): 700-950 cfs.
  • Optimum (essentially all satisfied): 950-1750 cfs
  • High Minimum (majority satisfied): 1750-2350 cfs
  • High Boatable (minority satisfied): 2350-3000 cfs

On March 10, 2000 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an order "Modifying and Approving Recreation Monitoring Plan." The plan, required by the license to operate the Kern River No. 1 Project, will monitor recreational use over a five year period in the project's bypassed reach "for the purpose of determining whether future demands for river recreation in the project's bypassed reach warrant modifications to the project's operating scheme to protect and enhance recreational values of the Kern River." The study is not limited to whitewater recreation and will include other activities directly influenced by river flows, such as "swimming, fishing, wading and recreational mining."

KR3 - SCE Kern River Project #3

Fairview Dam and DiversionClick!

Southern California Edison (SCE) also diverts 600+ cfs from the river at Fairview Dam, not far below the Limestone Run takeout. This reduces the flow and artificially shortens the season on this 16 mile stretch of river. Some of the best runs on the Upper Kern are in this section, including the Fairview Run, the only class III run on the Upper Kern other than the Powerhouse Run. Other outstanding Upper Kern runs affected by the diversion include Chamise Gorge, Salmon Creek, Ant Canyon, Thunder Run, and the Cable Run.

Settlement Agreement for Whitewater Releases from Fairview Dam

The following information related to whitewater releases from Fairview Dam is reproduced from the FERC document ORDER AMENDING LICENSE TO INCLUDE U.S. FOREST SERVICE REVISED FINAL TERMS AND CONDITIONS PURSUANT TO SECTION 4(E) OF THE FEDERAL POWER ACT (Issued May 12, 2004), Docket #P-2290-056, APPENDIX A, Section B. RECREATION RESOURCE MANAGEMENT, Condition No. 6 - Project Recreation Plan:

"f. Whitewater Recreation Flow Schedule

The Licensee shall provide the following whitewater recreation flows in the Kern River below Fairview Dam pursuant to the flow schedule set forth below beginning the date the FERC license order is final. The flow schedule is designed to allow the Licensee to continuously divert 300 cubic feet per second (cfs) into the Project powerhouse. However, this 300 cfs does not take priority over the instream flow releases required by Condition 4 above.

This flow schedule shall be discontinued for each day the California Independent System Operator, or its successor, declares a Stage II or greater power emergency. The flow schedule may be temporarily modified if required by operating emergencies beyond the control of the Licensee. If the flow schedule is discontinued or modified, the Licensee shall notify the Forest Service and FERC as soon as possible, but no later than ten (10) days after each incident.

Beginning no later than 10 a.m. and ending no earlier than 5 p.m. of each day that whitewater flows are scheduled, the Licensee shall release the whitewater flows described below into the Project bypass reach.

KR3 Whitewater Recreation Flow Schedule

g. The Licensee shall provide flow information to the public for the Upper Kern River in the mechanism selected to provide flow information to the public in compliance with Article 410 of the Kern River No. 1 license."

Article 422 of the FERC ORDER ISSUING NEW LICENSE (Issued December 24, 1996) Docket #P-2290-000 appears to base the trigger flows for the above releases on the previous days average flow recorded at the gaging station above Fairview Dam:

"Article 422. The Licensee shall provide the following whitewater supplemental flow releases: between May 15 and July 15, all flow between 700 cfs and 1100 cfs shall remain in the river channel for whitewater rafting. Southern California Edison may use flows below 700 cfs and above 1100 cfs for power generation. Between May 15 and July 15, based on the preliminary gauge data at the diversion tunnel and below the Fairview Dam, the use of water under the above regime shall be based on the previous days average flow recorded at the gaging station above Fairview Dam. These releases are contingent upon the amount of water available after diverting 35 cfs for the Kern River Fish Hatchery required by the September 27, 1995 Settlement Agreement among the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Fish and Game, and the Licensee."

The flow schedule originally specified in Article 422 was appealed and revised.

January 2004

According to John Gangemi, Sequoia National Forest filed the revised 4(e) conditions for the Kern River No. 3 Hydropower Project on the Kern River, California. The section 4(e) conditions have been revised from those filed in 1996 by the Sequoia National Forest to reflect the changes requested in the Settlement Agreement reached between Southern California Edison (SCE), American Whitewater, Friends of the River and other parties in December, 2002.

See Forest Service Issues Revised Conditions For Kern No. 3 Hydropower Project, (CA) on the American Whitewater web site.

December 2002

American Whitewater, Friends of the River, and Southern California Edison (SCE) signed a Settlement Agreement for whitewater releases from Fairview Dam. The Agreement and revised USFS 4(e) conditions increase the number of days for whitewater releases to 39 days annually as well as matches release volumes to kayak and rafting preferences:



Boating Days

River Flow at Fairview Dam


Whitewater Release (cfs)

April 1 up to the weekend prior to Memorial Day Weekend

Fridays and Weekends

1,000 to 1,300


More than 1,700


Weekend prior to Memorial Day until July 4


1,000 to 1,300


More than 1,700


July 5 up to July 31


1,000 to 1,300


More than 1,700


According to John Gangemi, American Whitewater Western Conservation & Access Director, the Settlement Agreement was submitted to the U.S. Forest Service and Ninth Circuit Court in January. As of April 2004 it is uncertain if the U.S. Forest Service plans to release the proposed schedule in an environmental assessment format for public review. Once approved by the U.S. Forest Service, SCE will adopt the whitewater schedule in the Settlement Agreement. American Whitewater encourages boaters to file comments in support of the Settlement Agreement.

KR3 License Appeal Upheld

February 26, 1999

The Forest Service has upheld the appeal of the operating conditions for the KR3 powerplant. According to an article in the Kern Valley Sun the Appeal Deciding Officer based his decision, in part, on the "Regional Forester's lack of adequate information for establishing flow schedules in the river and through the powerplant."

Most boaters, the Friends of the River, the Kernville Chamber of Commerce, Kern County officials, and others have questioned the validity of the process used to determine recreational flows in the 16 mile stretch of river de-watered by the powerplant. As noted here, In a dry year, when additional water would be critical to the local economy, SCE would get all* of the water up to 1400 cfs during the prime boating period of April 16 - July 4 weekend.

With this year's snowpack well below normal, the inadequacy of the appealed release schedule may be painfully evident.

Revised KR3 License Conditions Appealed

October 28, 1998

According to an article in the October 28 issue of the Kern Valley Sun, the Kernville Chamber of Commerce, American Whitewater Association and Friends of the River have appealed the Forest Service's revised license conditions for Kern River No. 3 powerplant. (If the article is no longer available on the Kern Valley Sun web site, the story "Appeal filed on KR3 license" has been archived on our site.)

Revised KR3 License Conditions Announced by Forest Service

September 11, 1998


When the revised flow schedule is assessed, the bottom line is that 300 cfs, or less, is added to the diverted reach when flows are above 1000 cfs (April 1-15 and after July 4 weekend-August 15) or above 1400 cfs (April 16 - July 4 weekend). The rationale for this approach is hard to understand.

The revised conditions obviously assume "average" flows, resulting from an "average" snowpack. From year to year, California weather is anything but "average." One year can be wet and the next year very dry. In a dry year, when additional water would be critical to the local economy, SCE would get all* of the water up to 1400 cfs during the prime boating period of April 16 - July 4 weekend.

*In the period April to June, a minumum flow of 100 cfs would need to be maintained in the diverted reach, but from a whitewater boating and scenic value standpoint, this is literally "fish flow."

The following river flow tables are taken from this excerpt.

Table 1. Flow Regime for the Kern River from the KR-3 Project Diversion at Fairview Dam through the Diverted Reach to the KR-3 Powerhouse

April 1-15; After July 4 Weekend - August 15
River Flow above Fairview Dam (cfs) Flows Available for KR-3 Project (cfs) Flows in the Diverted Reach (cfs)
<1000 <or=620 cfs (project capacity) at least MIF; up to 380 cfs
1000-1400 300 700-1100
>1400 300-620 Flows exceeding project capacity

Table 2. Flow Regime for the Kern River from the KR-3 Project Diversion at Fairview Dam through the Diverted Reach to the KR-3 Powerhouse

April 16 - July 4 Weekend
River Flow above Fairview Dam (cfs) Flows Available for KR-3 Project (cfs) Flows in the Diverted Reach (cfs)
<1400 <or=620 cfs (project capacity) at least MIF; up to 780 cfs
1400 300 1100
1500 350 1150
1600 400 1200
1700 450 1250
1800 500 1300
1900 550 1350
2000 600 1400
>2000 620 >1400

Old news, actions and additional information about KR3.

The following are copies of articles from the Kern Valley Sun:


We've transcribed some pertinent excerpts from the document "ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT FOR HYDROPOWER LICENSE, Kern River No. 3 Hydroelectric Project, FERC Project No. 2290."

Please note that these are OCR'd transcriptions and may contain errors not in the original document.

These FERC responses to comments made regarding the (previously released) Draft Environmental Assessment may provide some insight.


Rich Bowers - American Whitewater Affiliation
Phone: (301) 589-9453
Fax: (301) 589-6121
Steve Evans - Friends of the River
Phone: (916) 442-3155
Fax: (916) 442-3396
Richard Dancing - Community Consensus Council
Kernville Chamber of Commerce
Box 397
Kernville, CA 93238



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