October 28, 2015 – Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) entered into an agreement with nonprofit organization Bear Yuba Land Trust (BYLT) to hold a conservation easement on a 23-acre property called the “Narrows” along the Yuba River. This important agreement permanently protects the open space and natural resources from sub-division and future development and therefore saves an important salmon spawning stretch of the Yuba River.
The “Narrows Planning Unit” is located one-quarter mile below Englebright Dam on the south side of the Yuba River, within the boundaries of the Federal Energy Regulatory (FERC) Project. PG&E owns the 23 acres required for the operation and maintenance of its hydroelectric facilities. BYLT will monitor and protect the property for conservation values forever.
Through contracts with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Yuba County Water Agency, PG&E regulates water releases from Englebright Lake.
Permanently protecting the land below Englebright Dam will support the health and habitat restoration of the Yuba River salmon and steelhead fishery. Blue oak woodland, riparian areas and annual grasslands provide habitat for many wildlife species, including some special status bird species. Over one hundred bird species have been noted at the Sierra Foothills Research and Extension Center (SFREC) just across the river. The riparian area found along the Yuba River is composed of plant communities that differ significantly from corresponding upland communities because of the proximity to water and soil conditions.
Protecting this portion of the waterway is of great importance because it is critical habitat for Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and Central Valley steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss), according to the US Army Corps of Engineers. Both of these fish species are listed as threatened by the State of California or the federal government, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Englebright Dam is the upper limit of the fish migration.
The Narrows Planning Unit consists of two legal parcels, comprising a total of 64 acres. In January, a historic land transfer between PG&E and the University of California, resulted in Bear Yuba Land Trust (BYLT) holding a conservation easement on an adjacent 41 acres.
In coming years, land managers will conduct surveys to: identify and control noxious weeds, identify and protect biological resources and identify cultural resources and enable protection in coordination with Native American tribes. Other goals for the property include: developing a wildlife and habitat management plan and oak and river restoration with local stakeholders; fisheries habitat monitoring, studies and enhancements in coordination with the Lower Yuba River Accord and mercury contamination research, monitoring and restoration efforts.
Limited public access, sensitive species habitat and steep rocky terrain does not allow for recreation opportunities on this land.
This agreement is the culmination of over a decade of planning and work with local conservation groups, Native American tribes, public agencies and the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council (Stewardship Council), created as part of PG&E’s 2003 bankruptcy settlement.
Under the 2003 bankruptcy settlement, the Stewardship Council was established to facilitate the permanent conservation of 140,000 acres of PG&E’s watershed lands in primarily the Sierra Nevada.
About 14,000 acres of these PG&E watershed lands are located within the Bear River and Yuba River watersheds. Bear Yuba Land Trust was approved to hold the conservation easements on these lands.
In coming years, BYLT hopes to secure conservation easements on PG&E lands in the upper Bear River watershed near the Highway 20 corridor and Grouse Ridge area surrounded by the Tahoe National Forest. These will be conserved in perpetuity for: Outdoor recreation, sustainable forestry, agriculture, natural resource protection, open space preservation and protection of historic and cultural resources.
BYLT is a non-profit, membership-supported group that promotes voluntary conservation of natural, historical and agricultural resources in the Bear and Yuba watersheds of the Sierra Nevada foothills. This is done through permanent protection and enhancement of natural areas, farms and ranches, trails and park to provide a lasting community heritage.
To date, BYLT has conserved 10,000 acres, including the 2014 acquisition of Rice’s Crossing- 2,707 acres on the Yuba River between Bullard’s Bar and South Yuba River State Park at Bridgeport.