Last week we conducted electrofishing in New Bullards Bar Reservoir as part of a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relicensing assessment. FERC is the government agency that regulates and monitors hydroelectric projects and fisheries research is often required during relicensing of hydropower projects. The purpose of the study was to provide information concerning the distribution, occurrence, and condition of fishes in the reservoir. In this case, we conducted the electrofishing at night since it yielded a greater diversity of species and number of fish, and also reduced impacts of the project on recreational users. Another perk of conducting our sampling at night is that it left the day free for taking in the local sights.

New Bullards Bar Dam, which stands 645 ft. above the canyon floor, is touted as the 2nd tallest dam in California and the 5th tallest in the United States (Oroville Dam is the tallest at 770 ft.). It is quite an impressive site to look over the side of the concrete monolith into the canyon that once held the full force of the North Fork Yuba River. Some water is released at the base of the dam to support the fishery below, but the majority of the water now travels 4.7 miles through an underground tunnel to the New Colgate Powerhouse. New Bullards Bar Dam was constructed by the Yuba County Water Agency as a flood control reservoir in response to the flood of 1955. The dam was completed in 1969 and provides 170,000 acre feet of flood control storage space. Unlike many similar dams, people are still allowed to travel across this structure and gain an appreciation for its massive scale.