Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s announcement today that it will seek potential buyers for its Hamilton Branch hydropower facilities, which includes a small powerhouse and Mountain Meadows Reservoir, was unexpected.
“It came as a surprise,” said District 3 Supervisor Sherrie Thrall, who represents the Lake Almanor area. “It’s such a small piece of the their hydro-electric system.” Thrall added that there had been speculation over the years, about PG&E divesting its hydro facilities, but this was the first instance of something beyond a rumor.
Thrall, who has been involved heavily in the 2105 relicensing process, reiterated that selling the Hamilton Branch facilities had not been mentioned.
The 4.8-megawatt Hamilton Branch powerhouse is located on Lake Almanor. It receives water from Mountain Meadows Reservoir near Westwood in Lassen County via the Hamilton Branch canal and penstock.
According to this morning’s press release: Later this month, PG&E will issue a “request for offers” to seek a new owner for its Hamilton Branch facilities as they no longer serve as an economical source of electricity generation for the utility’s customers. In the meantime, PG&E will continue to maintain the facilities and Mountain Meadows Reservoir will remain available for public recreation.
“PG&E wants to find buyers who have experience in operating a hydroelectric system and working within the relevant regulatory processes. Hamilton Branch has unique characteristics and we believe it has the potential to yield significant value for the right owner. Price is not the only criteria we consider when selecting a buyer,” said Jan Nimick, vice president of Power Generation at PG&E.
The Hamilton Branch hydro facilities are separate from PG&E’s nearby Upper North Fork Feather River project, which includes Lake Almanor, Canyon Dam, Butt Valley powerhouse and reservoir, Caribou No. 1 and Caribou No. 2 powerhouses, Oak Flat powerhouse and their associated reservoirs.
Because employees who support Hamilton Branch also support numerous PG&E hydropower facilities in the area, no employee impacts are anticipated.
The Hamilton Branch facilities were constructed in 1921 by the Red River Lumber Company and acquired by PG&E in 1946.
PG&E expects to select the best overall proposal for Hamilton Branch and begin formal negotiations with a buyer in mid-to-late 2021. Approval from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) will be needed prior to any transfer of ownership.
A conservation easement held by the Feather River Land Trust encumbers the property, including PG&E’s land under and around Mountain Meadows Reservoir. The easement ensures permanent protection of beneficial public values for the property, including cultural and historic resources, recreation and biological resources. The easement also provides for continued public access and informal uses on the property.