SMUD’s Iowa Hill project

By From page A5 | December 13, 2013


Your recent editorial “Iowa Hill advances” read like a press release from SMUD’s public relations office. Those of us who live in Camino welcome the fact that they’ve thinned the forest on their company-owned property, but your comments do not address the facts of what the construction of their Iowa Hill “development “ would look like:

The first phase of construction includes clear-cutting of forest on 109 acres of SMUD property and 165 acres of Eldorado National Forest, removing all “organic matter” down to bedrock, using earthmoving equipment to remove the top of Iowa Hill, and blasting 2,000 feet of tunnel and a cavern to hold three turbines. The blasting alone should take about two years. The tunnel spoil would be trucked to the top of what’s left of the mountain, ground into gravel and used to construct the berm, up to 200 feet high, for the 6,400-acre-feet of water in the upper reservoir. A new road will be carved into the mountain on its southwest side. A two-and-a-half-mile long swath of forest will be clear-cut for new transmission lines. The 109-acre upper reservoir will have a plastic liner like a doughboy pool and be topped by a chain link fence and three strands of barbed wire. A wide cement spillway that drains into Slab Creek Reservoir will be built to drain excess water in the case of equipment failure.

SMUD claims there may be minor environmental impacts, unavoidable during construction, but nothing of significance.

In public meetings, the vast majority of Camino residents have spoken out against the Iowa Hill project. This project does not benefit El Dorado County. We get our electricity from PG&E. The 2005 SMUD/El Dorado Cooperation Agreement does not adequately address the financial, transportation or environmental impacts of SMUD’s new projects. You made a point of mentioning that SMUD employed local people for SMUD’s forest thinning work. For the construction of the project itself, however, union construction crews from Sacramento will be bussed in.

SMUD presents itself as a utility invested in preserving the environment. Actually, the Iowa Hill Pumped Storage project will consume more energy than it produces. It is being built to store the unreliable and intermittent power produced by wind and solar projects that California utility companies are required to build to meet new renewable energy standards. SMUD should stop all work on this destructive project and donate the residential parcels they own atop Iowa Hill to the Eldorado National Forest.

Enough is enough. SMUD already benefits from the massive Upper American River Project it built in the 1960s. It’s time for this Sacramento Valley utility company to use new energy technology to solve its energy problems in its own service area, not to destroy Iowa Hill.


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