FERC EIS endorses new 400-MW Iowa Hill pumped-storage

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff has issued a final environmental impact statement endorsing the relicensing of the 647.726-MW Upper American River project, including construction of a new 400-MW Iowa Hill pumped-storage development.

The final EIS, issued March 14, declares relicensing of Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s Upper American River project (No. 2101) would fit well with a comprehensive plan for developing California’s Upper American River. Like a previous draft EIS, the final document examines relicensing of seven developments that make up the project as well as proposed construction of Iowa Hill. (HNN 9/25/07)

FERC staff said by issuing new licenses for the Upper American River project, with Iowa Hill, and Pacific Gas &Electric Co.’s 7-MW Chili Bar project (No. 2155) immediately downstream, the sites would be best adapted to a comprehensive plan for proper use, conservation, and development of the Upper American River.

Although constructing and operating Iowa Hill would affect the environment, the pumped-storage operations would provide SMUD flexibility to meet peak power needs, according to the final EIS. Under the staff alternative, the Upper American River Project, including Iowa Hill, would generate 2,673 GWh and have a net annual benefit of $110.8 million, or $41.45 per MWh. For Chili Bar, the staff alternative would generate 31,291 MWh, and have a net annual benefit of $481,200, or $15.38 per MWh.

The Upper American River Project includes sections of the Rubicon River, Silver Creek, and South Fork of the American River. The Chili Bar project is on the South Fork of the American River. Both projects are near Placerville, Calif.

The final EIS documents the views of government agencies, non-governmental organizations, Indian tribes, the public, the license applicants, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, and FERC staff. It contains staff evaluations of applicant proposals and alternatives for relicensing the projects. The commission is to use the EIS to determine whether, and under what conditions, to issue new licenses for the projects.

The Forest Service was a cooperating agency in preparing the final EIS. It plans to use the document to decide whether to issue special use authorizations for Iowa Hill, to be built partially on National Forest System lands.

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