A proposal to install a new hydroelectric generator on Walton Lake was discussed at Tuesday’s board meeting of the Georgetown Divide Public Utility District.
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A presentation on the project was given by Rick Lind who is president of EN2 Resources, Inc., an environmental consulting firm in Placerville.
Lind and his firm were hired by the El Dorado County Water Agency to consult on the project.
Lind estimates the project would generate 647,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually and would have a minimal environmental or recreational impact on the lake.
“We don’t expect any change in water use, flow patterns or recreational uses of the lake. And the biological impact would be negligible,” he said.
The project is projected to have a 40-year economic life and would generate an expected $60,000 annually in income at today’s electric rates. For the first 20 years, the income would go toward paying for the cost of the project which is estimated at between $1.3 and $1.58 million. The next 20 years of income would go to the district. Bonds to finance the project would come from the Department of Treasury.
Resident Ed Grout, who was listening to the presentation, commented that the project was, in fact, revenue neutral. “The first 20 years will be spent paying for the project and the second 20 years money will have to be put aside to pay for replacing it. It’s a feel-good project,” he said.
Lind countered by saying, “I estimate you’ll come out ahead over time. The replacement costs would be minimal for a new generator and the infrastructure would already be paid for.” He also pointed out the projected income of $60,000 was based on today’s electricity prices and they would be considerably higher 20 years from now.
The consultant said there were two ways the district could use the energy from the proposed project. One would be to sign a contract with PG&E and sell the energy to them at nine cents a kilowatt-hour. The second would be to get credit on energy bills with PG&E. Lind said PG&E offers these kinds of options as an incentive for local water districts to take on small hydroelectric projects like the one at Walton Lake.
The powerhouse itself would be located at the terminus of the Sandtrap Siphon pipeline and would be set back from Walton Lake shoreline so it would not interfere with people being able to access the entire shoreline of the lake.
Lind said that moving ahead with the project requires approval from both federal and state agencies. As part of the process, the board was asked to accept the findings that the project would have no environmental impact and to vote to file a notice of exemption from CEQA. The board voted to do so with the exception of board member Kathy Otermat.
Lind said the next step is to complete the public review in order to satisfy the federal requirements for the project.
He said the project, if approved, could be online by 2014.