Matt Weiser of the Sacramento Bee reported today that the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) "has been taking more water from the Rubicon River in the high Sierra than its state permits allow, prompting complaints that the power supplier has harmed fish and neighboring water users."
The Rubicon River originates in eastern El Dorado County, but soon flows north into Placer County, becoming a tributary of the Middle Fork of the American River. (See map on our American River page.)
The two agencies are neighbors in the western Sierra, and share the Rubicon River. SMUD’s Rubicon Reservoir, at 6,545 feet elevation, diverts a portion of the river’s flow, via tunnel, into the south fork of the American River. SMUD uses that water to make electricity at several points.
The Placer water agency holds its share of Rubicon River flows at Hell Hole Reservoir, where it is stored for domestic and agricultural customers and used for power generation.
The result is that any excess Rubicon flows diverted by SMUD are not available to the Placer County Water Agency.
Complaints have been filed by the California Department of Fish and Game, the Placer County Water Agency, Friends of the River, and other fishing and environmental groups.
For details and an explanatory graphic, see "High Sierra diversions put SMUD in hot water" in the Bee.