For Immediate Release: April 19, 2018

SMUD upgrading Sierra campgrounds

Part of $150 million in projects tied to federal hydroelectric operating license

SMUD is beginning construction to improve two popular Eldorado National Forest campgrounds in the Crystal Basin Recreation Area. The Sunset and Azalea Cove campgrounds and the Gerle Creek Reservoir area are getting upgrades to existing facilities and some new improvements this spring and summer. Visitors will have an even better outdoor experience in this beautiful part of the Sierra.

Both Sunset and Azalea Cove campgrounds will get upgraded and improved campsites, as well as new and improved trails to the shoreline of Union Valley Reservoir. Additional improvements to Sunset include a new showering facility, a new group campsite, RV service station upgrades, a new entry kiosk, an upgraded drinking water system, and improved signage and information boards. Additional upgrades to Azalea Cove include a new drinking water system, the addition of bear-proof food receptacles, and a new vehicle parking area. Gerle Creek will see improvements to some day use areas and trails.

The projects were agreed to in SMUD’s 50-year hydroelectric operating license issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2014 for the Upper American River Project (UARP). These improvements are part of $150 million in upgrades and enhancements to existing UARP-related recreational facilities throughout the Crystal Basin Recreational Area, mostly around SMUD reservoirs. There will also be new recreational facilities added throughout the UARP area. Additionally, under the new license, SMUD provides $1 million annually to the U.S. Forest Service to operate and maintain the UARP-related recreation facilities.

SMUD initiated the upgrade design process even before the operating license was issued in 2014. These initial recreation improvements will continue for the first 20 years of the license. Design work is well underway on several other facilities, with a few already constructed, in addition to those ready to begin this year.

The Sunset and Azalea Cove work will require some areas to be partially or completely closed. Azalea Cove will be closed this May and June. Sunset is currently closed for the year and is scheduled to reopen in spring 2020. There will be limited closures to the Gerle Creek day use areas where work is scheduled to begin in July. Information about closures and limited access are available at

SMUD is committed to the communities it serves and where it builds infrastructure, and is a long-standing member of the El Dorado County community. SMUD continues to work with partners on fire prevention efforts, community development, road maintenance and environmental monitoring while working on other important projects in the county.

SMUD also remains committed to recreation improvements in the area and will deliver on the schedule outlined in the license. These include improvements to existing campgrounds, hiking and biking trails, roads and boat ramps, as well as constructing additional facilities. Expansion and improvements to these facilities will likely create additional demand, bringing more visitors into El Dorado County along with many new recreation dollars spent at local businesses.

SMUD continues to have a significant presence in El Dorado County with about 85 employees based at its hydroelectric maintenance headquarters at Fresh Pond with a local payroll and local expenditures well over $15 million per year.  About 200 SMUD employees call El Dorado County home, sending their kids to local schools, buying goods and services locally and contributing to the county’s tax base.

About SMUD

As the nation’s sixth-largest community-owned electric service provider, SMUD has been providing low-cost, reliable electricity for more than 70 years to Sacramento County (and small adjoining portions of Placer and Yolo Counties). SMUD is a recognized industry leader and award winner for its innovative energy efficiency programs, renewable power technologies, and for its sustainable solutions for a healthier environment. SMUD’s power mix is about 50 percent non-carbon emitting. For more information, visit