SMUD honors El Dorado County whitewater rafting advocate Bill Center
Environmental activist and former county commissioner remembered in ceremony
SMUD is honoring longtime El Dorado County activist and former county commissioner Bill Center with a plaque and granite bench at Camp Lotus, overlooking the South Fork of the American River. Camp Lotus is the resort Bill Center and his wife started 30 years ago.
Center died of cancer last September. He was 68.
SMUD worked closely with Center in developing the application to renew the electric utility’s 50-year federal license to operate the Upper American River Project, SMUD’s system of dams and powerhouses that comprise its hydroelectric generation facilities.
Center was among many stakeholders who were involved in years of discussions and meetings to create the framework of the license. He was integral in representing the local whitewater rafting industry’s interests in the licensing project. At a ceremony honoring Center, SMUD Chief Energy Delivery Officer Frankie McDermott said, “He’ll long be remembered at SMUD for the integrity, passion and compassion he brought to the things he and his family believed in.”
SMUD’s relicensing objectives didn’t always align with the rafting community’s. Rafters and kayakers want a predictable flow of white water. SMUD wants to maximize the value of the water flowing through its powerhouses. But there was a lot of common ground to work from, and it started with respect for the environment.
As a community-owned electric utility, environmental sustainability is part of SMUD’s core values, from offering energy efficiency rebates to reducing the use of carbon-based fuels in its power supply.
SMUD ultimately agreed to guaranteed flows, enabling whitewater rafting companies to thrive, while SMUD continued to generate clean, carbon-free electricity.
“I know for certain that those he worked with at SMUD viewed him with great respect,” said McDermott. “When he passed away in September, two of our board members immediately suggested that SMUD find a way to show our appreciation for his advocacy on behalf of the whitewater rafting community.”
For more information about SMUD and its work in El Dorado County, visit SMUD.org.
Bill Center’s family members cut the ribbon on the granite bench and plaque memorial dedicated to Center at Camp Lotus. Center passed away last September. He is remembered by SMUD in appreciation for his environmental advocacy.
A print-quality file of the image above is available on request.