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About the Business

Hydroelectric Operations

PG&E continues to make significant investments and upgrades to ensure the ongoing safety and reliability of its hydroelectric system.

PG&E owns and operates the nation’s largest investor-owned hydroelectric system—built along 16 river basins stretching nearly 500 miles—providing a safe, reliable and flexible source of clean energy for millions of customers. PG&E’s 68 powerhouses, including a pumped storage facility, have a total generating capacity of 3,896 MW and rely on nearly 100 reservoirs located primarily in the higher elevations of California’s Sierra Nevada and Southern Cascade mountain ranges.

PG&E actively manages its hydroelectric system to ensure the safety of the public and our workforce, protect wildlife habitat and sensitive species, and maintain popular recreation opportunities for the communities we serve, including campgrounds, picnic areas, boat launches, trails, fishing and whitewater flows.

Investing in Our Infrastructure

PG&E has a long history of safely and reliably operating its hydroelectric system for the benefit of customers. Many of PG&E’s dams and powerhouses have been in service for well over 50 years, and some of the water collection and transport systems date to California’s gold mining years. Today, these assets continue to serve as a valuable resource and we continue to make significant investments and upgrades to ensure their ongoing safety and reliability.

In 2012, our work spanned many areas, including:

Rock Creek Powerhouse

Workers prepare to stack steel laminations in one of two generators as part of a project to add 11 MW of generating capacity at the Rock Creek Powerhouse.

  • Rock Creek Powerhouse. In Plumas County, we began retrofitting the Rock Creek Powerhouse to increase the reliability and efficiency of the operations, while avoiding the need to construct a new powerhouse. Built in 1950, the powerhouse’s two generators are being replaced one at a time. The new generators would increase the powerhouse’s capacity by enough to power an additional 10,000 homes.
  • Crane Valley Dam. In Madera County, we added 300,000 cubic yards of rock to the existing dam to meet seismic requirements and increase public safety on the Crane Valley Dam at Bass Lake. The dam, which was built between 1902 and 1911, is now stronger and about six feet higher to provide an additional margin of safety. Throughout the two-year project, we worked closely with the local community to maintain public safety and recreational opportunities on the lake. We also restocked the lake with trout and planted 2,000 trees as part of a plan to replenish the 54-acre on-site quarry area with native vegetation.

Raising Awareness About Dam Safety

PG&E inspects and maintains its entire hydroelectric system according to strict safety guidelines, ensuring structural integrity under normal and extreme conditions and making a dam breach unlikely.

Dam Safety Brochure

PG&E conducted dam safety outreach with a focus on populated areas immediately downstream from PG&E facilities.

However, as part of our commitment to public safety and a nationwide initiative by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, in 2012 we engaged customers in a dam safety outreach campaign focused on populated areas immediately downstream from PG&E dams. The campaign included public service announcements and open houses to alert people in dam inundation (flood) areas about the importance of having an evacuation plan and recognizing signs of an impending dam breach. Outreach materials included maps of nearby dams, emergency planning guidelines, safety tips and local emergency contacts. We also placed posters in campgrounds, fishing areas and parks in inundation areas throughout our service area.

PG&E has partnered with emergency agencies for many years to develop Emergency Action Plans and regularly holds drills with local, state and federal emergency responders. PG&E is currently conducting a pilot project with emergency responders to upgrade early warning technologies, which may serve as a model for other PG&E watersheds in the future.

Other public safety initiatives related to our hydro system include enhanced protection measures such as fencing near canals and improved signage using pictographs to reach English and non-English speakers.

License Agreement Milestones

PG&E’s hydroelectric system consists of 26 federally licensed projects. As required by federal and state regulatory agencies, PG&E evaluates and mitigates the projects’ impacts on natural resources.

A network of swales are designed to improve wetland habitat at McArthur Swamp.

More than half of our operating licenses were up for renewal between 2000 and 2012. We have made it a priority to work collaboratively with stakeholders during the renewal process. Together, we work to assess the impacts of these projects and try to find agreement on appropriate resource management measures to include as conditions of the new licenses, such as fish and wildlife habitat protection and recreational opportunities. These efforts include work with federal and state agencies, local community members, environmental organizations, fishing interests and agricultural landholders, among others.

We also continue to make progress in improving our license compliance, which we measure by tracking our compliance with key environmental requirements. Using this approach, our compliance rate was 97.6 percent for 2012.

We achieved many important milestones in keeping with our license agreements in 2012:

Pit 345 Interpretive Panel

Panels along a 34-mile stretch of the Pit River provide information to enrich the visitor experience.

  • We started work to improve 475 acres of wetland habitat in McArthur Swamp in northeastern Shasta County in cooperation with the California Waterfowl Association. The restoration work, which is being done to meet the license conditions for PG&E’s Pit 1 hydroelectric project, includes construction of a network of swales that will distribute water to improve both wintering and nesting habitat for wildlife and waterfowl.
  • As part of our license agreement for the Pit 3-4-5 system, we worked with stakeholders to develop a series of interpretive informational panels along a 34-mile stretch of the Pit River watershed. Developed with input from a wide variety of state, federal and tribal stakeholders, each panel provides site-specific information about natural resources, Native American culture, pioneer history and hydropower on the Pit River.
  • We continued to implement a 38-year license for the 87.9 MW Spring Gap-Stanislaus hydroelectric project, located on the Stanislaus River in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties. In 2012, we continued a multi-year effort to make major recreation improvements to Pinecrest Lake, a key reservoir for the system and a popular destination for fishing, swimming and boating. Working with the Stanislaus National Forest, we are upgrading the lake’s facilities to reduce water consumption and energy use, enhance recreation, meet accessibility needs and improve traffic and parking conditions.

PG&E’s environmental commitment was also reflected in a number of other projects designed to restore and enhance habitat for fish and other wildlife.