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SMUD BREAKS UARP SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT ON SOUTH FORK AMERICAN RIVER - SLAB CREEK

Posted: 04/03/2019
by Theresa Simsiman

American Whitewater needs your letters written to Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) Board Members and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to help protect access to the Class II-III whitewater and White Rock Powerhouse take-out for the Slab Creek section of the South Fork American River. We make it almost too easy with our super simple easy action forms so take action today. In a recently filed Parking and Access Plan, SMUD breaks a condition of the 2007 Upper American River Project Relicensing Settlement Agreement that requires a take-out in the immediate vicinity of White Rock Powerhouse for Slab Creek. Instead, SMUD’s Parking & Access Plan moves take-out upstream to Rock Creek Powerhouse eliminating anticipated access to Class II-III whitewater and the boater friendly take-out at White Rock.

BLM and boating stakeholders have been working with SMUD on take-out access for Slab Creek since SMUD’s new hydropower license was issued in 2014. Early on, SMUD highlighted landowner objections and pushed a narrative that the easement agreements they had with landowners along the roads would not allow them to open up White Rock Powerhouse for take-out access. This is the reason why many paddlers may not have known or heard about the Class II-III section of whitewater on Slab Creek because without a legal means for take-out, boating this section of Slab Creek has been denied. Of course at the time many of the paddling stakeholders negotiating the settlement agreement recognized the opportunity for Class II-III paddling on Slab Creek from Rock Creek down to White Rock Powerhouse including the late Bill Center from American River Recreation Association, American Whitewater, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Foothill Conservancy, Friends of the River, Private Boaters Hilde Schweitzer and Theresa Simsiman. They actively advocated for a take-out in the immediate vicinity of the White Rock Powerhouse as a condition under the 2007 Relicensing Settlement Agreement. They also specified the area around White Rock Powerhouse because the natural river conditions (i.e. less gradient, slower water, large eddy & sandbar) made for a safe take-out that could accommodate anticipated growth of commercial and private boaters using Slab Creek.

Stakeholders also examined take-out alternatives across from White Rock on river right as a means to preserve the Class II-III section but SMUD cited cost constraints of bringing a road to the river’s edge as a reason for not accepting these alternatives. They are now pushing for the upstream interim take-out at Rock Creek as a permanent solution. Repeatedly, stakeholders have told SMUD that this location would not work. Permenant take-out at Rock Creek denies an entire class of boaters access to Slab Creek; it is not the preferred take-out for boaters paddling the Class IV-V who put-in on the opposite side of the river at Slab Creek Dam; and it would require repeated streambed alterations to make the river features safe for combined commercial and private take-out. Notably, SMUD has made no attempt to detail SMUD ratepayer cost estimates of all that is needed to make Rock Creek an acceptable alternative including road widening, obtaining permits for the repeated streambed alteration and not to mention our lost opportunity for Class II-III whitewater on Slab Creek.

Recently, American Whitewater took a closer look at SMUD’s assertion that easement agreement language with landowners specifically prohibited the use of the roads down to the White Rock Powerhouse. A legal review of case law and actual easement agreement language indicate there are no restrictions to SMUD’s “ingress and egress” along the existing roadway as part of operations. Since providing access at White Rock is a condition under the 2007 Relicensing Settlement Agreement, which dictates the terms of SMUD’s continued operation, we believe it is well within the utility’s ability to grant access to White Rock Powerhouse. As signatories American Whitewater along with American River Recreation Association, California Outdoors, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Foothill Conservancy, Friends of the River and Hilde Schweitzer will be taking the next steps to take SMUD into dispute resolution over the Relicensing Settlement Agreement and will make a Motion of Intervention on the Parking and Access Plan SMUD has filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  We ask all paddlers to take a moment to send letters to SMUD Board Members and BLM in support of take-out access at White Rock Powerhouse at the link below. WE NEED YOUR VOICES!

Go to this super simple Every Action Link to use our template send in your letters, and don't forget to personalize the letters, it makes a big difference. Thanks! - Photo by Trevor Croft - Rafting Magazine

 

 

 

Theresa Simsiman
Sacramento, CA