El Dorado Hydroelectric Project (El Dorado Project)

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Project No. 184

Lake Aloha Lake Aloha from climb up Mt. Agassiz
(Photo courtesy of Mr. Rob Laddish)

Applicant: El Dorado Irrigation District (EID)
County: El Dorado, Alpine, and Amador
License Expiration Date:September 30, 2046
Water Quality Certification Status: Issued April 4, 2006
Waterbodies: South Fork American River and Associated Tributaries
FERC Licensing Process: Alternative Licensing Process

Project Description:

Portions of the El Dorado Project were built from 1860 to 1876 for gold mining operations. After 1884, water from the El Dorado Project was used for industrial, irrigation, and domestic purposes in the Placerville area. Hydroelectric generation capability was added to the El Dorado Project from 1922 to 1924 by then owner, Western States Gas and Electric Company (Western States). Following construction of hydroelectric facilities by Western States, hydroelectric operations began in 1924. Western States merged with the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) in 1927. El Dorado Irrigation District (EID) purchased the El Dorado Project from PG&E, and on April 2, 1999, FERC approved the transfer of the federal license to operate and maintain the El Dorado Project to EID. On September 16, 1999, the California Public Utilities Commission approved the transfer of El Dorado Project facilities and related assets to EID, including the water rights associated with the El Dorado Project (FERC Project No. 184).

The El Dorado Project stores water in Lake Aloha, Echo Lake, Caples Lake, and Silver Lake for release after the spring runoff. Water from these lakes connects to the South Fork American River (SFAR) via associated tributaries. A portion of the SFAR is then diverted by the El Dorado diversion dam into the El Dorado canal. Five smaller streams that are tributaries of the SFAR (Alder Creek, Bull Creek, Ogilby Creek, Esmeralda Creek, and No Name Creek) are each diverted into the El Dorado canal as well. The canal provides water to the El Dorado Forebay where flows are divided between the El Dorado Powerhouse and the intake to EID's irrigation canal. Flows that enter the powerhouse pass through two single impulse turbines that are directly connected to two 11,500-kilowatt generators. Upon exiting the powerhouse, water is discharged back into the SFAR.

State Water Resource Control Board (State Water Board) staff was involved throughout the FERC relicensing process which culminated in issuance of a new FERC license on October 18, 2006. The El Dorado Project is upstream of the Chili Bar Hydroelectric Project and the Upper American River Project, both of which received new FERC licenses in 2014.

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