PG&E to Increase Flows on Pit River Below Lake Britton and Pit 5 Dams for Powerhouse Maintenance and Whitewater Recreation

BURNEY, Calif.— Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is urging the public to take extra safety precautions as water flows are increased on the Pit River below the Lake Britton Dam and Pit 5 Dam starting in September.

The higher flows are needed so PG&E can perform maintenance on the Pit 3 powerhouse tailrace, a concrete channel that carries water out the powerhouse and into the river.

While the Pit 3 Powerhouse is not operating September 1 through mid-December, no water will be diverted through the tunnel connecting the lake to the powerhouse, so water normally going through the tunnel will instead flow through or spill over the Lake Britton Dam.

Flows in the Pit 3 Reach will be about 750 cubic feet per second (cfs) from September 1 to 15, then increase to about 1,700 cfs. Flows in the Pit 3 reach typically range from 280 to 350 cfs in September. Flows may go higher during the wet season.

The Pit 3 Reach is the 4.5-mile portion of the Pit River in the Lassen National Forest between PG&E’s Lake Britton Dam and the Pit 3 Powerhouse.

PG&E is posting signage about the higher flows along the Pit River Road, and recreationists need to be aware of – and plan for – hazardous conditions.

Flows will also be higher in the Pit 5 Reach from September 5 through late November while PG&E performs planned maintenance on two generators at the Pit 5 Powerhouse.

The Pit 5 Reach is the 9.3-mile portion of the Pit River that extends from PG&E’s Pit 5 Dam to the J.B. Black Powerhouse near Big Bend. This portion of the river contains Class III, IV and V rapids, which are appropriate only for skilled paddlers. The reach is not appropriate for tubing.

Normal flows for September on the Pit 5 Reach range from 350 to 700 cfs but will range from 600 to 1,500 cfs during the powerhouse maintenance work from September 5 to late November.

PG&E will also conduct higher flows for whitewater recreation on September 8 and 9 on the Pit 5 Reach, with flows reaching at least 1,200 cfs over both days.

PG&E offers the following water safety tips:

  • Sudden immersion in cold water can stimulate the “gasp reflex,” causing an involuntary inhalation of air or water. It can even trigger cardiac arrest, temporary paralysis, hypothermia and drowning. When faced with swift water, even the strongest swimmers may be easily overwhelmed.
  • Many unseen obstacles can be lurking below the water’s surface. Swift water can make these obstacles even more treacherous. Guided trips for inexperienced paddlers are recommended.
  • Recreating in PG&E canals and flumes is strictly prohibited. Stay out of canals and flumes, which are very dangerous due to slippery sides, sub-surface obstacles, fast moving water, and transitions to full tunnels and pipes. For more water safety tips visit:

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