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AW Files Motion of Intervention - Slab Creek (CA)

Posted: 01/09/2020
by Theresa Simsiman

American Whitewater's primary goal on the South Fork American River below Slab Creek is to ensure the enjoyment of the entire whitewater reach from Slab Creek Dam to the White Rock Powerhouse. However, after exhausting all the proper consultation channels with Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) to bring to bear protections, mitigations and enhancements negotiated and conditioned in the 2007 Settlement Agreement and the 2014 Hydropower License order, AW and our colleagues have filed a Motion of Intervention with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The motion centers around SMUD's Streamflow Parking and Access Plan that is incomplete and proposes to cut off access to a third of the whitewater resources on Slab Creek. Specifically, SMUD is denying access and enjoyment to the Class II/III section of Slab Creek by blocking take-out access at White Rock Powerhouse.

The motion highlights that SMUD already possess unambiguous right-of-way easements that allow access to the entire Slab Creek reach at the White Rock Powerhouse facility but simply refuses to use the easements as required by the license order. In fact, SMUD acknowledges that "the White Rock Powerhouse location would be the easiest and most economically feasible to construct, as well as the most beneficial to members of the boating community who are our partners and in many cases our customers." Yet, they still insist on only developing take-out access upstream at Rock Creek which is public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The costs associated with the Rock Creek alternative would be substantial in comparison to allowing access at White Rock.

Also, made clear through our motion is that SMUD can consider new and previously rejected take-out opportunities in light of their planned acquisition of Pacific Gas & Electric's (PG&E) Chili Bar Project downstream of White Rock Powerhouse. Four of the take-out alternatives that SMUD studied in its Whitewater Take-Out Feasibility Study required the use of land within the boundary of the Chili Bar Project. These alternatives were rejected because PG&E refused to allow SMUD to locate the required boater take-out on Chili Bar Project lands. Obviously, SMUD's acquisition of the Chili Bar project removes this barrier.

Overall, the motion points out that SMUD's efforts to date to implement the protections, mitigations and enhancements for whitewater recreation, including those of its submitted Slab Creek Parking and Access Plan, do not conform to the comprehensive and integrated planning framework set forth in the License's conditions and articles. Instead, SMUD has used an inefficient and ineffective piecemeal approach which excludes key stakeholder input and fails to meet the intent or letter of the License.

You can read the Motion of Intervention here. Stay tuned for the next steps coming soon!

Photo by Trevor Croft Rafting Magazine - Photo Rock Creek Take-Out

Ambrose Tuscano
Soda Springs, CA