New Gauges On The Kern River

posted December 1, 2015
by Dave Steindorf

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American Whitewater has been in discussions with the Forest Service (USFS) and Southern California Edison (SCE). To revise the USFS conditions for the KR #3 project above Kernville.  The primary result for paddlers will be new online flow information, these gauges will include, inflow to Fairview Dam and flows below the Dam.  Additionally, SCE will report a running average for each day’s flow beginning at midnight.  SCE is required to release additional flows below Fairview dam if the previous days average flows are within particular ranges.  Those flow ranges, and release days can be found on the American Whitewater website river page for the Kern River below Fairview Dam by clicking on the Flow Info tab.

In 2012 Brett Duxbury, paddler and attorney, filed a complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, that SCE had been incorrectly interpreting a provision in their license that required recreational flows be provided for the week preceding Memorial Day weekend.  In a classic example of  “words matter”, the word “weekend” had been omitted from the final USFS condition that was incorporated into the license.   Thus, SCE interpreted this to mean the Saturday and Sunday before Memorial Day rather than the week before Memorial Day weekend.  

Over the past three years, American Whitewater, working with SCE and the USFS,  revised  the existing flow information condition.  In our discussions, we made the case that it would be virtually impossible for paddlers to know if SCE would be releasing water by calling the flow phone.  Paddlers would literally have to call every hour to determine if the average flow for the day would require a release the next day.  With the new system, paddlers can now look online to see what the running average flows are for that day.  By early evening paddlers should be able to know if a release will occur the following day.  The added bonus is that paddlers will also have the inflow to Fairview Dam, this will give a more accurate flow for the Forks of the Kern and other runs up stream.

This project is an example of how improvements can be made after a new license has been issued and it also reminds us how these projects require constant attention.  We would like to thank Brett Duxbury for bringing this issue to our attention. We would also like to thank SCE and the USFS for engaging with American Whitewater to find a collaborative solution.

Dave Steindorf
4 Baroni Drive
Chico, CA 95928
Phone: 530-343-1871

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