The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on June 8 issued a new 40-year operating license to the Placer County Water Agency (PCWA) for its 224 MW Middle Fork American River hydroelectric project in California [P-2079].

The water agency filed a rehearing request on July 8, arguing the new license's requirement for an amortization reserve account did not apply. The terms of the account—which explicitly pertain to nonmunicipal entities—mandate setting aside half the annual earnings in excess of the authorized rate of return on the net project investment.

Citing a 2013 FERC ruling that it was a municipality for the purposes of the applicable section of the Federal Power Act, PCWA's rehearing request stated that requiring the amortization reserve account "was in error."

The application for a new license was filed in February 2011. The original 50-year operating license was issued in March 1963 and expired in February 2013, after which the facility operated under an annual license, pending approval of the new one.

The Middle Fork Project 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 (French Meadows, Hell Hole, Middle Fork, Ralston and Oxbow). The overall project is operated in a seasonal store-and-release mode with average annual generation of about 1,039,100 MWh.

PCWA and Placer County oversee energy contracting and financial matters associated with the project through the Middle Fork Project Finance Authority, a joint powers agency they formed in 2006

News Editor - Clearing Up

Rick Adair has been with NewsData since 2003, and is news editor for Clearing Up and editor for Water Power West. Previously, he covered environmental and energy issues in the Lake Tahoe area. He has a doctorate in earth sciences.