Friends of Mountain Meadows gather on the shore of Mountain Meadows Reservoir Wednesday, Nov. 6, to discuss the status of the reservoir and other conservation projects in the area. Photo by Susan Cort Johnson

Friends of Mountain Meadows holds meeting

Although no work has yet been done, plans for the Indian Ole Dam public access enhancement project at Mountain Meadows Reservoir are in place. They include a vault toilet, a trail along the lake shore, interpretive signs, benches and picnic tables. One bench close to the parking lot will be handicap accessible.

Nils Lunder, director of Mountain Meadows Conservancy and stewardship manager for Feather River Land Trust, gave the report at the Wednesday, Nov. 6 Friends of Mountain Meadows meeting. Lunder said he was working with Ann-Marie Cannon, Hydro Support Land Agent for Pacific Gas and Electric Company, so the project can begin as soon as it is permitted by the California Public Utilities Commission.

It was one of several updates on projects that impact Mountain Meadows Reservoir that were given at the meeting.

Cannon reported for PG&E, stating the utility company had no plans to do any work on the hydro operations at Mountain Meadows Reservoir within the upcoming year. When asked why PG&E was currently releasing more water, she said that she did not know. However, she would contact management to find out and email the information to Lunder. Those present at the meeting thought it was to pull the dam boards in accordance with dam safety regulations.

Some attending the meeting were concerned about the reservoir emptying as it did in 2015. Paul Divine, an environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the reservoir was not in danger of going dry this fall because it had a lot more inflow than in 2015.

Lunder asked if PG&E hydro management officials had been meeting quarterly with regional staff from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to discuss the management of water releases from the reservoir. Divine said conditions in 2017 and 2018 had not been concerning, so they had not been meeting.

In his report on the rebuilding of the fishery in Mountain Meadows Reservoir, Divine said his department had conducted three electrofishing surveys during the summer. This is a scientific method of sampling a fish population by passing electricity through the water to stun fish so they can be caught for observation and then released.

The survey in late August at night worked the best, said Divine. He said it was evident Sacramento Perch were reproducing for they were catching all sizes. A variety of fish were found in the lake including pumpkinseed sunfish, bullhead catfish, sculpin, largemouth bass, tui chub and golden shiner. He said it was too early to know if the juvenile bass planted in the reservoir were reproducing, but by next summer if the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is able to survey the fish population, it should be more evident. Currently the department’s electrofishing boat needs a new part which costs $20,000.

In July 2018, 1,000 bass fingerlings were purchased for the reservoir from Professional Aquaculture Services based in Chico with funds from the Pacific Gas and Electric Foundation in the amount of $2,500. In September 2018, an additional 1,000 bass fingerlings were planted with funds in the amount of $2,500 raised through donations. Contributors were Lake Almanor Fishing Association, Mountain Bass Association, Westwood Quik Mart and private donors.

Divine reported that 143 Sacramento Perch and 90 largemouth bass were transferred to Mountain Meadows Reservoir from another reservoir this past summer.

Information on other conservation projects in the area was provided at the Friends of Mountain Meadows meeting. Ron Lunder discussed a project located at the headwaters of Robbers Creek, which is a tributary of the reservoir. He explained the work is being conducted by the U.S. Forest Service and South Lassen Watershed Group and includes restoration work in Swain Meadow.

Steve DeBonis, Sierra Pacific Industries district manager, said the timber company he works for was creating a grazing management plan for the land it owns in the area and was also working with various groups on restoration projects. Recently it participated in a willow restoration program with Point Blue Conservation Science in which local students planted willow shoots along Goodrich Creek. He also said SPI was working on a fuel break project from Indian Ole Dam to Clear Creek in partnership with the Lassen County Fire Safe Council.

Nils Lunder provided updates on the work Feather River Land Trust is doing, such as developing conservation easement plans with PG&E and cleaning up the Mountain Meadows Gateway property it purchased to provide a second public access point to Mountain Meadows Reservoir.

Friends of Mountain Meadows will meet again this winter with the tentative date set for Feb. 12, 2020.