SMUD responds to July 21st Iowa Hill meeting in Camino
In a release late this week SMUD announced that they have published the results of the July 21 meeting in Camino. In it they stressed that they wanted to be, "fair and candid with you" and that "Keeping open the lines of communication is important to us."
Communications about what SMUD is doing in the local Camino area at Iowa Hill is what the meetings are all about. The statement reads:
SMUD hosted a community meeting in Camino on July 21 to share the latest information on our projects and proposals in El Dorado County. We discussed our recent forest thinning and fire prevention efforts, the upgrades we’ve planned for recreation areas, and the proposed Iowa Hill pumped-storage project, among other things. We also had the opportunity to hear directly from you, which is really important to us.
We set up this community meeting because we want to be sure that you know what we’re doing, how it may affect you, and how to contact us if you want to.
We’re committed to operating with integrity and to being fair and candid with you. Keeping open the lines of communication is important to us, so you’ll always have a forum to discuss the issues that are important to you and our shared community.
We’re delighted that more than 75 people came to the meeting to learn more about our work in the region. We received lots of questions, especially about the Iowa Hill project.
Many of the questions were asked in smaller group sessions. We thought the answers to them might be of interest to all residents and community stakeholders.
Following are the common questions we heard. We hope you find the answers useful. Some other, more technical and specific questions came up, and we’re responding to those individuals directly as we gather the information they asked for.
Please keep an eye out for details about future community meetings to be held soon. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Director, Power Generation
Sacramento Municipal Utility District
SMUD hosted a community meeting in Camino on July 21 to share the latest information on our projects and proposals in El Dorado County. We discussed our recent forest thinning and fire prevention efforts, the upgrades we've planned for recreation areas, and the proposed Iowa Hill pumped-storage project, among other things. We also had the opportunity to hear directly from you, which is really important to us.
We set up this community meeting because we want to be sure that you know what we're doing, how it may affect you, and how to contact us if you want to.
We're committed to operating with integrity and to being fair and candid with you. Keeping open the lines of communication is important to us, so you'll always have a forum to discuss the issues that are important to you and our shared community.
We're delighted that more than 75 people came to the meeting to learn more about our work in the region. We received lots of questions, especially about the Iowa Hill project.
Many of the questions were asked in smaller group sessions. We thought the answers to them might be of interest to all residents and community stakeholders. Following are the common questions we heard.
If you have additional questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact us.
Questions & Answers
We have heard that the next phase of geotechnical studies for the Iowa Hill project includes blasting. Is that right?
That is correct. Blasting will enable us to establish a 1,600-foot tunnel inside the mountain on the south side of Slab Creek Reservoir for the next phase of our geotechnical studies. We hope to begin in October, but the specific start date will be determined by the permitting process. We will communicate the exact timeline as soon as it is finalized.
What can we expect in terms of noise?
Once the work begins, we plan to blast twice a day, seven days a week. There will be no blasting at night.
Each blast will be audible only for a second or two, and will likely be heard in the vicinity of Slab Creek Reservoir. Anyone boating or fishing at Slab Creek Reservoir would hear just a muffled boom. We expect the blasting to continue for three or four months. The blasts will become less audible as the tunnel progresses deeper into the mountain. SMUD's contractors will develop a plan to minimize noise disturbance and will install seismic monitoring stations to track effects of the blasting.
If anyone has questions, they can call our project hotline, 916-732-6822, or emailIowaHill@smud.org.
If SMUD decides to build the Iowa Hill project, what will be done to lessen the impacts of construction on the community?
Some level of noise and construction traffic will be inevitable. But we will continue to make every effort to minimize the impacts that we can foresee. We've been talking with people from El Dorado County about this and working on mitigation plans for years. In 2006, SMUD and El Dorado County formed the Iowa Hill Joint Advisory Committee, or IHJAC, to devise measures that would minimize impacts on the local community.
Focusing on traffic, noise, fire risks and visual aesthetics, the committee recommended 200 mitigation measures, and SMUD adopted 85 percent of them in the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) document for the Iowa Hill project. Construction of the pumped-storage system could begin in 2018, at the earliest.
How will SMUD address fire hazards?
We recognize the perennial risk of wildfires and the heightened risk we're experiencing now with the drought. With all the work we do in operating and maintaining our hydroelectric system, fire prevention and safety are top concerns. We have a fire prevention and suppression plan, and all contractors who work for us must have their own plans that adhere to U.S. Forest Service standards.
When we conducted forest-thinning last winter to reduce fire hazards at our 86-acre property on Iowa Hill, we had a full-time fire marshal on site with the authority to halt work. Forest-thinning was suspended or cut short due to concerns about fire risks more than a dozen times in less than four months. You can find our fire prevention and suppression plan for the forest-thinning projecthere.
A fire-risk subcommittee of the Iowa Hill Joint Advisory Committee (IHJAC) met many times to develop a comprehensive list of fire-prevention strategies to follow in building the pumped-storage project. You can find the reports and findings of the IHJAC on fire prevention here. SMUD's final California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) report, which is part of our hydroelectric operating license, also captures many of these recommendations and illustrates our commitment to fire prevention and suppression.
What will SMUD do about traffic and wear and tear on local roads?
We understand residents' concerns about traffic, and we share them. The safety of residents is paramount. If we proceed with construction of the project, we will bus workers to the job site, and we'll schedule the delivery of equipment and supplies for times when traffic is minimal. Our transportation plan will incorporate updated school and county bus routes and schedules to avoid conflicts.
We are fully committed to repairing any roads that deteriorate due to construction activities. Our new hydroelectric operating license requires us to consult with the U.S. Forest Service and the El Dorado County Department of Transportation to evaluate the condition of existing public roads prior to the start of construction and to leave the roads equal or superior to their existing condition.
To minimize the impact of construction on community roads, we plan to build a new road – called the Southwest Connector Road - between the upper construction site, where a new reservoir will be built, and the lower construction site, on the south side of Slab Creek Reservoir. This will allow project vehicles and equipment to avoid North Canyon Road and other public roads, reducing traffic in the Camino and Apple Hill area.
We worked with El Dorado County representatives who serve on the Iowa Hill Joint Advisory Committee to study potential transportation routes for the Iowa Hill project.
Will drilling or blasting destabilize the mountain at Iowa Hill?
No. We wouldn't be pursuing the project if there was a risk of this.
Does SMUD plan to blast off the mountaintop at Iowa Hill when it creates a new reservoir?
No. The upper reservoir will be built in a natural bowl-shaped indentation on the northeast side of Iowa Hill. We'll remove the forest, dirt and weathered rock to reach solid bedrock. The weathered rock will be removed by blasting, and the blasted rock will be used to form a berm on top of the bedrock to contain the reservoir.
How will the people of El Dorado County benefit from this project?
The Iowa Hill project will have numerous benefits for the community.
- Air quality. The primary alternative to the Iowa Hill project would be to add natural gas-fired generation, which would have negative air quality impacts in the foothills and the Sierra Nevada as well as the Central Valley.
- Economic development and tourism. If we decide to proceed with the Iowa Hill project, construction will employ approximately 235 people who will spend money in El Dorado County. Under our new operating license for the Upper American River Project, we also will enhance El Dorado County tourism, a major driver of the local economy. We'll be spending $155 million over 20 years on improvements to the Crystal Basin Recreation Area, such as upgrading the boat launch, improving road conditions, and rebuilding a bridge across Iowa Canyon Creek, among other actions. We'll also release more water to support-white water rafting.
- Water storage. We've agreed to store water for El Dorado County in our hydroelectric system when the county secures consumptive water rights. Storing 40,000 acre feet of water in SMUD reservoirs would enhance reliability of the water supply for agriculture and save El Dorado County the expense of building its own reservoir, which would cost at least $100 million.
- Fire prevention and fuels reduction. Last winter, SMUD reduced the fire hazard near Camino by removing small trees and dense brush on our 86-acre Iowa Hill property. As part of this project, we will be implementing an even more robust fire management plan to continue to address this issue for years to come.
How will SMUD keep us informed about the project?
Now that we have regulatory approval for the Iowa Hill project, we plan to hold community meetings in El Dorado County more frequently. Approval of the project is part of our new hydro operating license, which we received from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission two days after we held a community meeting in Camino on July 21.