Feds Give SMUD 50-Year License For Hydroelectric Projects On American River

The Sacramento Municipal Utility Districtgot a 50-year renewal to operate its hydroelectric projects on the upper American River.

The utility operates 11 reservoirs and eight powerhouses in the upper American, which generate 688 megawatts of electricity, representing about 15 percent of SMUD’s annual power.

Part of the new license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission calls for SMUD to make some changes. The utility will make several recreational upgrades to reservoirs and it will increase the volume of water it releases into streams to benefit natural resources.

“It is gratifying to receive a new 50-year license,” SMUD CEO Arlen Orchard said in a news release. “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 license also allows SMUD to move ahead with the design and potential construction of the 400 megawatt Iowa Hillpumped-storage development, which would pump water uphill during times of light electric use, and generate power during summer peak periods.

The utility is still doing feasibility work on the $800 million Iowa Hill project, which could take three years.

More at BizJournals.com >>>

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Man Rescued After Falling From Bluff In Rancho Cordova

Rescue crews hoisted a man up to safety who fell 60 feet from a bluff near the American River in Rancho Cordova last Saturday evening.

Witnesses said the man was walking along the bluff on the north side of the river near the Old Fair Oaks Bridge when he fell from a 160-foot cliff.

They said the man was heard calling for help after he fell, but, it was difficult for crews to get to the man because of the location of his fall and also the thick brush that surrounded him.

More at KCRA.com >>>

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Sacramento City Fire Considering Controlled Fires Along American River

Sacramento City Fire Department spokesman Roberto Padilla took Fox40’s Ben Deci on a tour of the American River Parkway. After an already intense fire season, he wanted to show us what is there, and what isn’t anymore.

“There’s acres upon acres and acres of this specific type of fuel load,” he said, gesturing to a bramble pile several feet high.

The tour took them through one sooty scorch-mark after another. They are monuments to a wildfire season that has been twice as tough here as it was last summer.

And now Padilla is putting forward an unheard of idea for the Parkway: the Fire Department starting some fires of its own.

 “It wouldn’t even be acres at a time you’re talking about. Just setting a 5′ x 30′ strip and burning that guy off and then doing another,” Padilla said.

He’s talking about controlled burns to get rid of some of the critically dry fuel that wildfire loves.

“An out-of-control controlled burn is another compelling argument,” said Stephen Green, President of the Save the American River Association. “It would happen. Absolutely.”

Green lives along the parkway. He’s convinced that, sooner or later, houses like his would be threatened by a controlled burn policy.

And he says there are other policies fueling this problem.

“This community has not done what it can do for those people camped on the Parkway. And they’re camped the entire length of the parkway,” he said.

In December 2011, Police were sent to break down tent cities in Center City Sacramento, and clear-out the the homeless people who lived in them. It is now clear where many went- deeper into the underbrush along the American River.

More at Fox40.com >>>

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City Says Some Fences Along Sacramento River Parkway Must Come Down

Members of the Sacramento City Council say some of the city’s neighbors are stealing property and they want it back.

Property along the Sacramento River Parkway, owned by the city of Sacramento, provides access to the Sacramento River, or at least it should.

Private property owners complained to the city that the area was also a haven for public drunkenness, vandalism and illegal parking.

The property owners said they got informal permission to build the fences. They even provided the fire department with keys to locks on the fence, but the city says they never approved the fences and they have to come down.

More at KFBK.com >>>

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American River Parkway Fires Are Bigger And More Frequent

The American River Parkway is the crown jewel of Sacramento, a 23-mile stretch of forests, beaches, bike paths and hiking trails used by countless visitors each year.

It is also bone dry, and causing unprecedented headaches for area firefighters this year.

“We’ve had more multi-alarm fires in the last six months than we did in the last two years combined,” Sacramento Fire Department spokesman and firefighter Roberto Padilla said Friday.

Parkway advocates say firefighters have responded to 24 fires – 14 in the city jurisdiction alone – in the first half of the year, including blazes that have erupted from the unusually dry conditions caused by California’s historic drought.

“We’ve noticed a spike in grass fires … and the reason people are noticing is because in the past it would be a 2- or 3-acre fire and then we would get a hold of it,” Padilla said. “Now, you’re talking about 160 acres, like the Cal Expo fire (on July 4).

“The fire behavior is extremely explosive, and the concern for us is these are wildland-type fires in urban settings.”

There is nothing new about grass fires along the parkway. They happen every year – and most are started by humans, either accidentally or as arson. But this year, some area firefighters are particularly concerned about the potential for fires to burn larger and more quickly than in previous years.

So far this year, more than 200 parkway acres have burned, about the same amount that burned over the previous 18 months. With the peak of fire season coming in late August, the situation has left fire officials and parkway advocates debating what methods should be used to reduce the threat of fires, and whether a comprehensive plan should be drawn up to clear out underbrush before it ignites.

The immediate response by firefighters has been to knock down a blaze as rapidly as possible, because of the extreme conditions. Padilla said the Sacramento Fire Department is deploying four firefighters per engine rather than the typical three to make more force available to stop blazes, and the department is deploying additional resources much more quickly than in the past.

In the case of the Cal Expo fire, which burned up to the levee behind the state fairgrounds, the first firefighters dispatched called for additional help before they even arrived because of the size of the smoke column, Padilla said.

“We struck a second alarm before anyone even got there,” he said.

The causes of the fires are the same as in past years – almost invariably they’re caused by humans. The county estimates that the parkway is visited 5 million times a year by parkway users; other estimates put the figure as high as 8 million. With that many visitors, the potential for fire is high, and almost anything can spark a blaze – a campfire set by homeless people, a barbecue set up on an island by weekend visitors, a cigarette butt carelessly discarded.

“There’s just a lot of activity on the parkway,” Padilla said.

More at SacBee.com >>>

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New Folsom Auxiliary Dam To Be Topped Off Friday

The last mass of concrete for the Folsom auxiliary dam is set to be placed July 11, completing the structure of the new dam east of Sacramento on the American River, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says.

 Work will then shift to completing installation of its remaining electrical and mechanical components, including its 12 giant gates.

 Concrete placement for the dam began in May 2012, and crews have worked nearly around the clock, six days a week to pour more than 100,000 cubic yards of concrete for the structure – enough to lay more than 4,000 foundation slabs for 2,000-square-foot homes.

 While construction of the new dam is scheduled to be complete in 2015, additional work on the spillway’s approach channel, downstream chute and stilling basin, which helps dissipate the energy of water released from the dam before it enters the American River, will continue until the project’s planned October 2017 completion.

More at CentralValleyBusinessTimes.com >>>

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Climate Change’s Effect On Fish Subject Of Hatchery Talk

As part of a series of discussions presented by the Department of Fish and Wildlife, a presentation the effect on climate change on salmon and steelhead trout in the American River is being held at 7 p.m. July 17 at the Nimbus Hatchery Visitor Center, 2001 Nimbus Road, Rancho Cordova.

Preregistration is not required.

Fisheries Branch Program Manager Kevin Shaffer will review the potential impacts of climate change on salmon and steelhead runs in the American River. Climate Associate Whitney Albright will show the steps the department is taking to reduce the effects of climate change and the actions needed to manage fish runs. Both speakers will take questions from those in attendance.

The final session in the series on Aug. 7 will look at aquatic invasive species.

For more information, call (916) 358-2884.

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Caltrans: Expect Delays On Highway 49 During Roadwork

Caltrans is now targeting mid-July for a start on projects along portions of Highway 49 near Auburn and Highway 193 in Newcastle that are expected to result in delays for motorists.

A portion of Highway 49 in the American River canyon below Auburn and known for its tight turns  will be subject to one-way traffic controls starting July 14 as work on a new concrete barrier takes place.

At the same time, one-way traffic controls will also be in effect from July 14 to July 28 as work proceeds to replace a small viaduct near the Newcastle tunnel on Highway 193.

While it was initially reported that there would be full road closures on some days, Caltrans is planning to close just the portion of Highway 193 near the tunnel and the shutdown will be at night. Caltrans spokeswoman Rochelle Jenkins said the closure will start July 14 and last six days. The full road will be closed from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. over the six-day period.

More at AuburnJournal.com >>>

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Drought No Hindrance To Raft Tours

The rafting industry in Placer County isn’t suffering, despite low snow melt and ongoing drought conditions throughout the state.

According to local rafting companies, the only problem the drought is causing is in the public perception that rafting on area waterways is less fun because of the drought.

For H2O Adventures, a rafting tour company located in Lotus, business has been booming in spite of drought because of scheduled dam releases on the popular forks of the American River.

Daniel Soule, co-owner of H2O Adventures, said dam controls on the river have helped to offer the best possible rafting experiences for tours during the drought.

“We’re busy, but we could be busier,” Soule said. “In reality, we have the capacity to do groups up to 50 or 60 people.”

Dam releases on the south and middle forks of the American River have helped to provide, what raft guides refer to as, “floatable levels.” Companies are able to plan tours based on a schedule and ongoing agreement with water agencies.

So far, the south fork of the river only sees two days of impassably low water levels, while the middle fork is open all week long.

More at AuburnJornal.com >>>

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Fire Crews Contain Fast-Moving Parkway Blaze Along The American River Parkway

The Sacramento Fire Department responded to a five-acre fire along the American River Parkway around 2 a.m. Thursday.

Public information officer firefighter Roberto Padilla said the fire, along mile marker five of the parkway near Cal Expo and Bushy Lake, spread quickly due to relatively high wind speeds and thick vegetation. Though fast-moving, the two-alarm fire threatened no structures.

More at SacBee.com >>>

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