Monday, October 24, 2016

Fall stakeholder meeting materials

The agenda and presentations from the October 21, 2016 stakeholder meeting are now available here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Fall stakeholder meeting

The fall Upper Tuolumne Stakeholder Group meeting will take place in Moccasin on October 21, 2016.  A draft agenda will be posted here and sent to stakeholders via email in the next few weeks.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Spring stakeholder meeting presentations posted

Presentations from the April 29th stakeholder meeting have been uploaded here. Thanks to all who participated in the meeting.

Monday, May 9, 2016

O'Shaughnessy Dam ecological pulse flow release underway

High capacity valves on the face of
O'Shaughnessy Dam release spring
snowmelt to the upper Tuolumne River.
With a relatively healthy snowpack in the upper Tuolumne watershed in Yosemite National Park and spring snowmelt well underway, the SFPUC Hetch Hetchy Water & Power division began ramping up releases from O'Shaughnessy Dam to the upper Tuolumne River on Sunday, May 8th, for the first ecological pulse flow since the California drought began in 2012.  Flows will reach 6,500 cubic feet per second (cfs) by Wednesday, May 11th.

The releases are designed to achieve a number of experimental ecological objectives, including managing foothill yellow-legged frog reproduction, inundating unique wetlands in the Poopenaut Valley, and mobilizing fine sediment, sand, and gravels to improve trout and foothill yellow-legged frog habitat.

Wetlands in the Poopenaut Valley that haven't seen significant flooding since 2011 will be fully inundated by the peak release of 6,500 cfs, providing valuable information on how wetlands may recover from several years of drought.

The sediment mobilizing releases will serve to move silt and sand that has increased in the upper Tuolumne River since the 2013 Rim Fire. Fine sediment can fill the spaces between gravels and cobbles, allowing stream side vegetation to encroach into the river channel and "fossilize" the loose gravel and cobble patches that trout, foothill yellow-legged frogs, and other aquatic life need to successfully reproduce.

Scientists from the SFPUC, Yosemite National Park, and UC Davis are monitoring the releases and will be studying their ecological effects throughout the spring and summer.  Data from this work will be used to update and refine analyses and river management strategies described in the Draft O'Shaughnessy Dam Instream Flow Management Plan.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Spring stakeholder meeting agenda

Reminder, the spring upper Tuolumne River stakeholder meeting is scheduled for April 29, 11-3 in Moccasin. Agenda available here.  Please RSVP to, lunch provided.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Spring stakeholder group meeting

The April snow survey is in and the upper Tuolumne is at 89%, much better than the single digits we experienced a year ago.  To hear more about the snowpack, the hydrologic outlook, spring high flow releases, and more, join us at the Upper Tuolumne River Stakeholder Group meeting on April 29th in Moccasin.  A draft agenda will be available within two weeks.  RSVP at

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

2015 Yosemite National Park Looking Downstream Project report

The interdisciplinary Yosemite National Park (NPS) Looking Downstream Project is designed to better understand the physical processes and ecology of the Tuolumne River between O’Shaughnessy Dam and the western boundary of Yosemite National Park. The project goal is provide information the SFPUC can use to manage O’Shaughnessy Dam environmental water releases to more closely replicate natural hydrology for the benefit of water-dependent ecosystems downstream.

The 2014-2015 water year was dry: precipitation was approximately 58% of average. April 1st and May 1st snow water equivalent, however, were at record lows (9% and 2% of average April 1st, respectively) continuing a historically unprecedented drought in central California.  Hydrology studies in spring 2015 focused on monitoring low flow conditions.  These low flows precluded any experimental releases from O'Shaughnessy Dam.

Vegetation-related fieldwork in Poopenaut Valley documented the rapid spread of non-native common mullein within and adjacent to the seasonal pond on the north side of the river. Although the 2013 Rim Fire may have contributed to the spread of common mullein in this area, it is most likely related to the nearly continuously dry conditions in the pond over the past few years.

Spring bird surveys in Poopenaut Valley consisted of area searches, point counts, spot mapping, nest searches, and color banding. A cumulative total of 240 individual birds from 38 species were observed. Spot mapping determined breeding territories of the four target riparian focal species (Warbling Vireo, Yellow Warbler, Song Sparrow, and Black-headed Grosbeak) to elucidate their habitat-use patterns. Data collected during spot mapping and nest searching in 2011–2015 were used to calculate arrival, initiation of breeding, and fledging dates for the target riparian focal species. In 2015, NPS found 68 nests, which is substantially more than in previous year. Nest failure rate in Poopenaut Valley seemed unusually high; of the 68 nests found, 60% failed and 25% had unknown fates.

Bat studies have identified an impressive biodiversity of bat species inhabiting Poopenaut Valley from spring 2011 through late summer 2015. Bat detection frequencies decreased in 2015 to levels comparable to pre-2014 levels. The only species with marked increases were western mastiff bat and big brown bat at the south site. Species richness decreased slightly in 2015 at both sites and was fairly consistent with pre-2014 numbers. Seasonal patterns in species richness were also consistent with previous years at both sites.

The 2015 Yosemite National Park Looking Downstream Project report can be accessed here.