FERC Rejects Climate Change Study

States: 

In a move that has disappointed many, FERC has rejected a request to predict and evaluate the changes in project effects that will occur as a result of climate change that is likely to impact the local patterns of precipitation, runoff, evapo-transpiration and other meteorological patterns in two watershed in California. Coalition members American Rivers and South Yuba River Citizens' League (SYRCL) had made the request for the Yuba-Bear (P-2266) and Drum-Spaulding (P-2310) Projects in California.In a study request filed in August 2008, AR and SYRCL stated that,

"...regional and global climate drivers have changed over the past century and are expected to continue to change in predictable directions and magnitudes over coming decades. Changes in the global and regional climate will continue to change the local patterns of precipitation, runoff, evapotranspiration and other related forces. As a result, project effects on Yuba and Bear river watershed resources will also change."

AR and SYRCL had proposed using Water Evaluation and Planning Version 21 (WEAP 21) in conjunction with ResSim as a secondary tool for the study. The goal of the study, as proposed, was to:

  • Develop information to predict the effects the two projects will have on resources in the Yuba and Bear River watersheds under changed climate conditions; and
  • Ensure that the new licenses for the Projects are best prepared for the potential effects of climate change to the extent possible.

However, FERC did not require the study to be conducted claiming that the suggested model was not a perfect model. In an explanation provided in February, FERC stated the following:

Although there is consensus that climate change is occurring, we are not aware of any climate change models that are known to have the accuracy that would be needed to predict the degree of specific resource impacts and serve as the basis for informing license conditions.

The Yuba River watershed is considered to be one of the most vulnerable watersheds in the Sierra to climate change. According to Pacific Gas & Electric, the amount of water contained in the snowpack each year at Spaulding Reservoir on the South Yuba River has already declined by 25%.