Brief History of the Proposed Dams

on the Tributaries of the Upper Sacramento

by Donna Boyd

October 2002


To set the scene:

In 2001 California is in a HUGE energy mess as eletricity suppliers manipulate the market.  Governor Davis is signing long-term very high-profit contracts with energy suppliers.  This makes small-scale hydroelectric generation lucrative….


July 2001  Richard Williamson, developer from the Bay Area, applies to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a preliminary permit to build dams on the Middle and South forks or the Upper Sacramento.  FERC opens a 60-day comment period for the public to have input on the projects.


August 2001  Local community works together to protest these projects. There are several meetings, articles in the paper and even a website is created. Over 200 personal letters and a petition with 400 signatures are gathered.  FERC required that each letter be sent with 8 copies attached.  Several individuals donated money for postage and a local business donated the copies.  By the end of the comment period several huge packages are delivered to FERC containing letters in protest of the dams.  Additionally, Siskiyou County takes an official stand against the projects.


September 2001  Mr. Williamson holds a public meeting in Mt. Shasta to discuss the project and answer the public’s questions.  Over a hundred individuals and many government agencies attend.  Lavada Erickson and a planner from Siskiyou Co. come to express their concerns.  Employees from the US Forest Service, CA Fish and Game, and US Fish and Wildlife all came to listen.  Local community groups such as the River Exchange, California Trout, and the Mt Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center attend.

The public comments are overwhelmingly against the project.  All over the room people hold up small papers with “NO DAMS” in big letters.  Mr. Williamson receives a complete set of copies of the protest letters sent to FERC.


FERC issues the preliminary permits.  This triggers a second 60-day comment period with regards to the scientific study work that must be done to determine the impact of these projects should they be built.


October 2001  The Upper Sacramento River Exchange and California Trout jointly host a public information evening.  Curtis Knight from California Trout describes the FERC Hydroelectric Licensing process and identifies when and how the public can comment/participate in the decision making.  Lavada Erickson and several Siskiyou County staff people including planners, lawyers, etc. come to explain the counties position and how they are involved. Letters are sent requesting the feasibility studies give weight to the impact on the local environment and the community.


November 2001-the study comment period ends.  Mr. Williamson now has three years from July 2001 to complete the study work and submit his license application. 


Now, the scene changes:

California’s energy “crisis” is over and the high dollar contracts are no longer available.  This makes small Scale hydroelectric generation a much riskier investment….


Spring/Summer 2002  Mr. Williamson fails to do any study work and misses a reporting deadline with FERC


August 2002  FERC notifies Mr. Williamson of his failure to report and gives him 30 days to respond.  Mr. Williamson does not respond.


September 2002  FERC issues an order canceling the permits.