Upper American River Project

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Loon Lake, the uppermost major storage reservoir of UARP−Upper American River Project.

The Upper American River Project (UARP) is a hydroelectric system operated by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) of Sacramento, California in the United States.

The system consists of 11 dams and eight powerhouses that tap the upper tributaries of the American River drainage in the Sierra Nevada for power generation. Total installed capacity is over 687 MW, producing 1.8 billion KWh annually, enough for 20 percent of the city's electricity needs.[1]

The project mainly utilizes water from the South Fork American River and its tributaries, although some water is drawn from the Rubicon River, a tributary of the Middle Fork American River. Project dams provide water storage of about 430,000 acre·ft (530,000 dam3) and a total hydraulic head of 5,417 ft (1,651 m) from the highest reservoir to the lowest powerplant outflow.[2]


The UARP was authorized on August 28, 1957 by an act of the Federal Power Commission. SMUD began construction in September of that year, and the first power generation from UARP came online at Jaybird Powerhouse on May 1, 1961.[3] Most of the project facilities were completed by 1967. The Loon Lake Powerhouse was completed in 1971, and Jones Fork Powerhouse was finished in 1985.[3]

Environmental impacts include the prevention of fish passage by the project's dams, which segment parts of the upper South Fork American River, the Rubicon River and their tributaries.


Water is diverted from the Rubicon River to a storage reservoir, Loon Lake, from which it is released through the Loon Lake Powerhouse to Gerle Creek. This water is intercepted and diverted into Silver Creek, a tributary of the South Fork American River, flowing through the Robbs Peak Powerhouse into Union Valley Reservoir, the project's principal reservoir. Water from Ice House Reservoir also enters Union Valley via the Jones Fork Powerhouse.[2]

From Union Valley, water flows through the Union Valley Powerhouse to Junction Reservoir, then through Jaybird Powerhouse to Camino Reservoir, both on Silver Creek. The water then enters a penstock that feeds the Camino Powerhouse above Slab Creek Reservoir on the South Fork American River. From there, water is sent through a final tunnel to White Rock Powerhouse, located on the upper end of Chili Bar Reservoir also on the South Fork.[2][4]

List of facilities[edit]

Dams and reservoirs[2][5]
Name Impounds Capacity
acre.ft dam3
Brush Creek Brush Creek 1,530 1,890
Buck Island† Unnamed 1,070 1,320
Camino Silver Creek 825 1,018
Gerle Creek Gerle Creek 5,231 6,452
Ice House South Fork Silver Creek 45,960 56,690
Junction Silver Creek 3,250 4,010
Slab Creek South Fork American River 16,600 20,500
Loon Lake Gerle Creek 76,200 94,000
Robbs Peak† South Fork Rubicon River 30 37
Rubicon Rubicon River 1,450 1,790
Union Valley Silver Creek 277,290 342,030
Total 429,436 529,702

† indicates a diversion dam

Power plants[2]
Name Capacity (MW) Hydraulic head Annual
generation (KWh)
ft m
Camino 150.0 1,065 325 299,480,000
Jaybird 144.0 1,535 468 453,030,000
Jones Fork 11.5 580 180 16,109,000
Loon Lake 82.0 1,179 359 76,549,000
Robbs Peak 29.0 361 110 38,904,000
Slab Creek 0.4 250 76
Union Valley 46.7 420 130 98,336,000
White Rock 224.0 867 264 459,630,000
Total 687.6


  1. ^ "Project Overview". Sacramento Municipal Utility District. Retrieved 2013-04-15. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "SACRAMENTO MUNICIPAL UTILITY DISTRICT: Upper American River Project, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Project No. 2101" (PDF). Sacramento Municipal Utility District. 2001. Retrieved 2013-04-15. 
  3. ^ a b "The History of SMUD's UARP" (PDF). Sacramento Municipal Utility District. 2001. Retrieved 2013-04-15. 
  4. ^ "The Project Maps". Sacramento Municipal Utility District. Retrieved 2013-04-15. 
  5. ^ USGS Topo Maps for United States (Map). Cartography by United States Geological Survey. ACME Mapper. Retrieved 2013-04-15.