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SMUD receives 50-year license to operate 688MW hydroelectric project in US

Published 28 July 2014

The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has issued the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) a new 50-year license for the continued operation of the Upper American River Project (UARP), a 688MW hydroelectric project.

The project includes 11 reservoirs and eight powerhouses spanning an area from the crest of the Sierra Nevada mountains to the foothill communities of the Sacramento valley. The project provides about 15% of SMUD's customers' annual power needs.

The new license includes operational changes, recreation upgrades and monitoring programs. It also contains a project expansion that will further enhance natural resources in the project area and energy-related value derived from the hydro project.

SMUD stated that aquatic resources in all eight tributaries of the project will benefit from increases in minimum flow releases, and new high-volume pulse flows will wash fine material from streambeds.

Under the new license, recreation at UARP storage reservoirs will be upgraded by SMUD maintaining minimum water levels during summer months.

A 20-year program will be initiated by SMUD to upgrade all existing UARP recreation facilities, including campgrounds, picnic areas, paved bike trails, hiking trails and shower facilities at a ski chalet. In addition, SMUD will release whitewater boating flows from two UARP reservoirs for kayaking and rafting.

Under the new license, SMUD will coordinate UARP operations with the downstream Chili Bar Hydroelectric Project, which is operated by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E).

The new license also directs SMUD to move forward with the design and potential construction of the proposed Iowa Hill pumped-storage development. Under the new license, SMUD will continue to evaluate the feasibility of building the development over the next three years, before the SMUD board of directors determines whether to proceed with construction.

The new license will be reviewed by SMUD staff over the next 30 days to determine if it contains changes from the agreements reached between SMUD and the relicensing stakeholders. Should it decide to do so, SMUD has 30 days from the day the license is issued to file an appeal of any portion of the license.