NOTICE: SMUD offices will be closed for Thanksgiving holiday. Learn more.

For Immediate Release: July 24, 2014

SMUD receives new 50-year license from FERC

Benefits power supply, environment and recreation

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) has received a new 50-year license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the continued operation of the Upper American River Project (UARP). The UARP is a 688-megawatt hydroelectric project that consists of 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 UARP provides about 15 percent of SMUD's customers' yearly power needs.

Click here to view a copy of the FERC order issuing the new license.

The terms of the new license reflect the results of formal agreements reached between SMUD and numerous stakeholders in the relicensing process including state and federal resources agencies, environmental groups, local government, the whitewater boating community and the general public. "It is gratifying to receive a new 50-year license," said SMUD General Manager and CEO Arlen Orchard. "It allows SMUD to continue to generate large quantities of non-carbon-emitting energy over the next 50 years from our most valuable, lowest-cost power supply."

"The new license is the direct result of a collaborative effort by a large number of parties that worked together to find solutions to balance power generation and environmental protection," said Paul Lau, SMUD's assistant general manager for Power Supply and Grid Operations. "It combines enhancement of environmental attributes at existing UARP facilities with a new opportunity to expand the project's contribution to renewable energy development."

The license contains a number of operational changes, recreation upgrades and monitoring programs. It also includes a project expansion that will further enhance natural resources in the project area and energy-related value derived from the hydro project. Increases in the volume of water released from reservoirs into streams and rivers will benefit natural resources. 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 enhanced by SMUD maintaining minimum water levels during summer months. SMUD will also embark on a 20-year program to upgrade all existing UARP recreation facilities, including campgrounds, picnic areas, paved bike trails, hiking trails and shower facilities at a ski chalet. Also, 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). This coordinated operations requirement will result in a set of guaranteed whitewater boating flows in the popular 20-mile commercial whitewater boating reach of the South Fork American River, downstream of PG&E's project. In essence, whitewater boating flows of a specified volume and duration will be provided every weekend for the next 50 years, greatly benefiting the thriving $30 million per year commercial rafting industry in El Dorado County.

The new license also directs SMUD to move forward with the design and potential construction of the proposed Iowa Hill pumped-storage development. This development, which circulates water between a lower and upper reservoir, would add a significant level of operating flexibility that would help SMUD balance supply and demand on the grid. It would play a crucial role in allowing SMUD to develop larger supplies of intermittent wind and solar power. As directed in 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.

Over the next 30 days SMUD staff will review the new license to determine if it contains significant 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.

As the nation's sixth-largest community-owned electric service provider, SMUD has been providing low-cost, reliable electricity for more than 65 years to Sacramento County (and a small portion of Placer County). 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 is the first large California utility to receive more than 20 percent of its energy from renewable resources.