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Environmental Impact Statements (EISs)

Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Upper American River Projects Nos. 2101-084 and 2155-024
Issued: March 14, 2008

Commission staff prepared a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the relicensing of the seven existing hydroelectric developments that make up Sacramento Municipal Utility District's (SMUD's) 688-megawatt (MW) Upper American River Project No. 2101 (UARP), the proposed construction of an eighth 400-MW development at Iowa Hill as part of the UARP, and the relicensing of Pacific Gas & Electric's (PG&E's) 7-MW Chili Bar Project No. 2155. The UARP is located on the Rubicon River, Silver Creek, and South Fork of the American River (SFAR) near Placerville, California. The Chili Bar Project is located on the SFAR in El Dorado County, near Placerville, California, immediately downstream of the UARP.

SMUD filed a license application with the Commission for the UARP on July 7, 2005. The project occupies 6,375 acres of federal land administered by the Forest Service in Eldorado National Forest and 42.3 acres of federal land administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Forest Service is reviewing an application for a special-use permit for constructing SMUD's proposed Iowa Hill development on National Forest System lands. The Forest Service is also a cooperating agency in preparing this EIS for the UARP.

PG&E filed a license application with the Commission for the Chili Bar Project on June 21, 2005. The project, which consists of a single development, occupies 47.81 acres of federal land administered by the BLM.

The key environmental issues tied to the existing operations of the UARP are how to provide more suitable habitat in the downstream reaches to support native species and how to better coordinate operations between SMUD and PG&E. Raising instream flow would increase the quantity and velocity of flows into the downstream reaches, lowering water temperatures and reducing sedimentation in these reaches. Releasing higher instream flows should have a positive effect on the abundance of native fish and benthic macroinvertebrates and the ability of amphibians to breed in these reaches. Increasing coordination between SMUD and PG&E would reduce the number of unanticipated spills at the Chili Bar Project.

SMUD's and PG&E's license applications outlined their proposals to continue operating the Projects in accordance with certain existing and proposed operational and environmental measures. SMUD and PG&E filed a comprehensive Offer of Settlement with the Commission on February 1, 2007, that replaces the Proposed Actions. The terms of the Settlement Agreement include a wide range of measures to enhance, mitigate and protect the resources affected by the continued operation of the Projects.

In the final EIS, Commission staff recommends the staff alternative, which consists of the proposed action, with some recommended changes to the proposed settlement articles.