On January 30, 2015, KRB attended the annual meeting between the United States Forest Service and local whitewater rafting outfitters at the USFS Kernville office.
Our main purpose in attending this annual event is to keep the concerns of private boaters in front of the decision-makers in the Kern drainage. This year, Al Watson and Tricia Maki of the local USFS office were kind enough to put us on the agenda to seek support for releases on the Lower Kern in mitigation for the adverse impacts entailed by the Army Corps' Isabella Dam project. The outfitters were both receptive and agreeable with the need for guaranteed releases in 2021 — and in other years, but that's for another post.
The balance of the meeting was dominated by details of the challenges confronting outfitters in light of what is, at this time, looking to be a fourth straight season of drought. The outfitters all vowed to open their doors this year, at least for a while, but the economics of their operations have, quite possibly, never looked this bleak. We all share hope for a large rain event or pattern that pulls this season out of the drought range. Even a 75% snowpack year would be a great benefit — for outfitters and private boaters alike.
Tidbits from the meeting included a moving presentation from Barbara and Rex of Keepers of the Kern. The Keepers became the biggest local story of 2014 by cleaning up the riverbanks of the Upper Kern with the help of their volunteers and private donations. The Keepers will be keeping on and look to expand their efforts down to the lower Kern. KRB's members should consider volunteering for trash pickup with the Keepers if they are able.
The USFS reported on how it finally spent its "FERC dollars" (USFS parlance) from the 2004 relicensing of Edison's Kern River No. 3 hydroproject — $300,000. It spent that large sum on a few permanent toilets and some outfitter-requested road, and parking projects to help their buses on the Upper Kern. More than two years ago, KRB made public the fact that the Forest Service had held onto the money from Edison for nine years before bringing the projects to completion. KRB will write a more detailed post regarding how the KR3 relicensing money — like the money from the Borel relicensing which was spent on paving the road to Democrat — went to projects promoted by outfitters with no apparent private boater input. Getting greater private boater input and say on the expenditure of public money constitutes a large part of KRB's mission.
Finally, KRB learned that the whitewater park project in Kernville is, for a second year, still lacking construction permits from the county and the Army Corps. Until those permits are obtained, the project is on hold. KRB supports the whitewater park project and will work to ensure it becomes a year-round destination for private boaters. KRB also learned the Brush Creek race is being moved to the weekend after the TJ Slalom race, although there is a chance neither will be held this year unless the snowpack improves. This change will provide boaters interested in both the slalom race and the creek race more time to prepare, as these two races have historically been included in an all-too-busy, single weekend. The change would also move the creek event a week closer to its average high water day, which is in early May.