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SF American River (CA) - Slab Creek Powerhouse and Boating Flow Release Valve

Posted: 07/28/2016
by Theresa Simsiman

The California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) recently took a step that sets the stage for increasing recreation flow days for the Class V Slab Creek reach on the South Fork American River in the future. The SWRCB has issued a 401 Certification for Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s new Slab Creek powerhouse and boating flow release valve on the South Fork American River, which is an important step towards SMUD meeting their requirements under their hydropower license.  

Today, the release valve at the foot of Slab Creek Dam lacks the capacity to meet recreational flow. Thus, SMUD must provide flow by coordinating reservoir levels to spill over the top of Slab Creek Dam.  In the future, once recreational use triggers are met, the new release valve will allow SMUD a safer means to provide additional recreation flow days without spilling Slab Creek Dam.

The 401 Certification also includes two specific conditions that American Whitewater endorsed for the benefit of paddlers.  The first condition requires that SMUD develop a plan for a new whitewater boating put-in and parking area.  The second condition requires that the utility consult with the boating stakeholders regarding the design of the boating flow release valve and the energy dissipating baffles, which will be necessary in order to remove the force of water spraying on whitewater boaters as they navigate past the facility at the put-in.

Overall, the SWRCB 401 Certification paves the way for the construction of a new facility that will also enable SMUD to meet minimum instream flow as well as whitewater boating release requirements while generating additional hydropower. A classic win/win situation for the environment, the paddler and the utility! American Whitewater will continue to support and monitor the construction of these new facilities, which will only serve to enhance this significant whitewater resource.

Photo by Pete DeLosa

Associated Rivers

American, S. Fork CA