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No. California wildfire cuts hydropower generation

September 16, 2022

Water supply & powerhouses located in fire’s footprint

Energy generation from the Middle Fork American River Project in California “has been severely curtailed,” by the Mosquito Fire reported Placer County Water Agency General Manager Andy Fecko.

The extent of “damage to the project cannot be fully assessed at this time,” added Fecko.

The utility has coordinated with emergency responders on the location and protection of agency assets, and it has opened its facilities in Foresthill and Auburn to personnel working on the front lines of the fire.

The Middle Fork Project (MFP) is located in Placer and El Dorado counties, on the Middle Fork of the American River, Rubicon River, Duncan Creek and North and South Fork Long Canyon creeks.

It includes seven dams — Duncan Creek diversion dam, French Meadows dam, Hell Hole dam, North Fork Long Canyon Creek diversion dam, South Fork Long Canyon Creek diversion dam, Middle Fork interbay dam and Ralston afterbay dam — and five powerhouses: 15.3 MW French Meadows, 725 kW Hell Hole, 61.2 MW Middle Fork, 79.2 MW Ralston and 6.128 MW Oxbow.

The overall project is operated in a seasonal store and release mode and has an average annual generation of about 1,039,078 MWh.

Despite the curtailed power generation, Placer County Water Agency continues to meet its minimum stream flow requirements out of Middle Fork and Oxbow powerhouses. Water is flowing and available for fire-fighting efforts.

In addition, water supply or water service to PCWA customers hasn’t been interrupted.

The safety of staff and customers remains the utility’s highest priority. Since the Mosquito Fire erupted on 6 September 2022 near Oxbow Reservoir in the Tahoe National Forest, PCWA has evacuated all employees from the area.

As the primary water resource agency for the county, PCWA takes seriously its responsibilities including water resource planning and management, retail and wholesale supply of drinking and irrigation water, and production of hydroelectric energy.