SMUD Moves to End Standoff over Hydro Relicensing

By Published On: October 20, 2006

After locking horns with wildlife and resource agencies, as well as environmental and recreation groups, on the issue of relicensing the Upper American River hydro project, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District plans to reenter negotiations. The U.S. Forest Service will likely formalize an agreement to recommence negotiations over recommendations on river water levels for the popular boating and recreational region, Jim Shetler, SMUD assistant general manager for energy supplies, told the utility board October 19. “We at the staff level continue outreach to nongovernmental organizations and establish conditions for negotiations,” he added. The first step, however, will be a meeting with the Forest Service – possibly next week – to ensure that the muni is committed to reengaging in negotiations on licensing terms, Shetler said. The meeting is also aimed at giving the disputing parties a clear idea of what is on the table. Negotiations may recommence in November. The agencies filed their relicensing recommendations at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last week. At its October 5 meeting, the SMUD board urged that staff reengage in negotiations over relicensing terms. At that board meeting, as well as prior ones, SMUD was heavily criticized by dozens of recreation, environmental, and business groups for opposing the federal and state wildlife and resource agencies’ recommendation to FERC to increase instream flows when it considers a 50-year renewal of the hydro project license (Circuit, Aug. 4, 2006). Project relicensing began more than five years ago; the half-century-old license expires next July. – Elizabeth McCarthy

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