Middle Fork American River Hydroelectric Project

Middle Fork American River and Rubicon River Basins, California.

Project Profile & Licensee

FERC Project No. 2079 is located on the Middle Fork American River (MFAR) and Rubicon River Basins in Placer and El Dorado counties, California. Project Includes Duncan, North Fork, and South Fork Long Canyon creeks. The 223.753 megawatt (MW) Project is owned by Placer County Water Agency (PCWA) and includes five developments:  French Meadows, Hell Hole, Middle Fork, Ralston, and Oxbow.

French Meadows: Duncan Creek Dam diverts water from Duncan Creek into Duncan Creek-Middle Fork Tunnel and on into French Meadows Reservoir/Dam (on MFAR). French Meadows-Hell Hole Tunnel, delivers water from French Meadows Reservoir into French Meadows Penstock and into French Meadows Powerhouse/Switchyard. This 15.3 MW powerhouse discharges into Hell Hole Reservoir.

Hell Hole: Hell Hole Dam on the Rubicon River forms Hell Hole Reservoir, contains Hell Hole Powerhouse (0.725 MW), which discharges into the Rubicon River.

Middle Fork: North Fork Long Canyon (NFLC) Creek Dam on NFLC Creek diverts water into the Hell Hole-Middle Fork Tunnel. The South Fork Long Canyon (SFLC) Creek Dam on SFLC Creek does the same. The Hell Hole-Middle Fork Tunnel conveys water from Hell Hole Reservoir into the Middle Fork Penstock and Powerhouse. This 122.4 MW powerhouse discharges into the Middle Fork Interbay Pool.

Ralston: Middle Fork Interbay Dam on the MFAR forms the Middle Fork Interbay Pool. The Middle Fork-Ralston Tunnel conveys water from the Middle Fork Interbay Pool into the Ralston Penstock and Powerhouse/Switchyard. This 79.2 MW powerhouse discharges into the Ralston Afterbay.

Oxbow: Ralston Afterbay Dam at the confluence of the MFAR and Rubicon rivers, forms the Ralston Afterbay. The Ralston-Oxbow Tunnel conveys water from the Ralston Afterbay into the Oxbow Penstock and Powerhouse/Switchyard. This 6.128 MW powerhouse discharges into the MFAR.

Federally Threatened - Listed Species/ Species of Concern

There are no anadromous fish in the MFAR Basin (upstream of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s [USBR] Nimbus and Folsom Dams). A NMFS Biological Opinion on the USBR contains a “Reasonable and Prudent Alternative” for fish passage of the distinct population segment of California Central Valley (CV) steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) over USBR’s Nimbus/Folsom Dams and into “some suitable location in the upper American River” (North/Middle/South Forks). Thus, it is reasonably foreseeable that CV steelhead may be reintroduced into the MFAR and into the vicinity of the Project.

FERC Relicensing Status

Integrated Licensing Processes since 2007: PCWA filed its NOI/PAD in December 2007 and its Final License Application in February 2011. NMFS/USFWS submitted Preliminary 10(j) terms and reserved Section 18 Fish Passage Authority in August 2011. The USFS 4(e)s (2011) included terms to reopen the license if anadromous fish become reintroduced into the upper American River Basin in the vicinity of the Project. FERC incorporated NMFS/USFWS 10(j)s & USFS 4(e) terms into its Final EIS in February 2013. USFWS concluded informal ESA consultation in May 2013. State Water Resources Control Board is working on its Section 401 Water Quality Certification.


Project information can be found at http://relicensing.pcwa.net/index.html. Additional information can be found at Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC eLibrary, Dockets P-2079.