Power rafting on the American
California’s energy crisis may lower wattage on river rafting on the South Fork of the American River.
The Upper American river system of hydroelectric power plants produce 688 megawatts of electricity annually. California’s need for electricity could prompt Pacific Gas and Electric Company and Sacramento Municipal Utilities District to increase electricity production on the American River to help meet the state’s demand.
“Hydroelectric power is very important within the state of California,” said Lisa Randle of PG&E. “Hydroelectric facilities and the way they operate is unique because they can produce additional power quickly. It is more immediate (than other sources of power.)”
The need for increased hydroelectric power and the winter’s below normal snowpack, are expected to prompt power companies to closely regulate water release from dams on the South Fork. The expected release times for the Chili Bar Dam are 1 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. on the weekends. Randle said release times will be subject to change because California is in a stage 3 energy energy crisis. Stage 3 represents the most severe level of energy crisis.
“There is a demand for power in California and there are community concerns with recreation,” Randle said. “We are working with the communities to accommodate white water opportunities, provided they don’t adversely affect the electric customers. Stage 3 conditions will make planned release less predictable.”
Mike Miltner of Tahoe White Water Tours said the timed releases will restrict the times rafting tours can operate on the American River. While the energy crisis may have an effect on river rafting on the South Fork of the American River, he does not blame the power companies.
“I don’t know how long the (daily) window of opportunity is going to be (for rafting),” Miltner said. “It is probably going to be around two hours or so. We understand that we have to use the water that is given to us. We can’t demand that they release the water for our benefit.”
The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors is continuing work on a revised River Management Plan. The new plan is expected to go in effect this fall. Part of the new proposed RMP is expected to regulate the amount of boat traffic on the river. El Dorado County Interim General Services Director Craven Alcott said the plan would have to make exceptions for years with high water regulation.
“We understand that there may be extenuating circumstances like low water years,” Alcott said. “We know we can’t spread out use because there is limited water amounts. All of this does not apply to this summer. The plan that was adopted in 1984 will be applicable this summer.”
The Board of Supervisors approved the environmental impact report for the new RMP March 27 and accepted the revised management plan. The board is working out the details of the new plan before it is adopted.
“What they did was the certification of the EIR and adopted the preferred alternative management plan,” Randle said. “What they are doing now is completing the carrying capacity work as well as developing the action plan document based on that preferred alternative.”
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