Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

KRCD looks at small hydro project on Kings River

The Kings River Conservation District wants to study a project to install a small hydroelectric unit on the Kings River near Sanger — creating electricity by using the river’s flow at Gould Weir.

It’s part of California’s push to have 33% of its energy portfolio in renewable technologies, such as solar, wind and hydro, by 2020.

Though such small hydro is an established technology, this project wouldn’t happen anytime soon. The district has applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a permit to study it. The study would probably take three years.

The main question: Could this project produce enough electricity to make it work financially for the district?

“The river doesn’t run all year round,” said district general manager Dave Orth.

He said the district is the leading resource agency in the region, making it the logical choice to study the project’s feasibility and development in an environmentally appropriate manner.

Snow surveys in Kings River area confirm small snowpack

The Kings River Water Association on Thursday said the snowpack is half or less than what it would normally be in higher elevations above Pine Flat Reservoir.

Two lower elevation courses had little or no snow, the association reported. Association leaders say this could turn out to be one of the driest years on record at the Kings River.

Kings River Watermaster Steve Haugen said the result was not a surprise. There has been little storm activity since December. Now farmers involved with the 1 million-acre association face a second dry year in a row.

“Our member units and their water users are going to have below-average water supplies again this year,” he said.

More groundwater pumping is expected this summer, Haugen said.

If the dry spell continues, the river runoff is expected to be as low as 32% of average, or about 400,000 acre-feet of water.

Bee photographer was part of snow-surveying crew

Fresno Bee photographer Mark Crosse — yes, his name is very similar to mine — took the stunning photographs in the high Sierra for my story about the snowpack today. But he came back talking about more than just the gorgeous scenery.

Mark Crosse’s photo of Blackcap Basin, taken from PG&E’s helicopter on Tuesday.

Snowpack photo assignments usually involve a quick helicopter ride to one mountain meadow where you take a picture of hydrographers. Not this time.

Crosse wound up as part of the crew, writing down the record of snow measurement at each of the five stops that Pacific Gas & Electric Co. made Tuesday in the Sierra. In these times of economic strain, PG&E has streamlined its operation, so everybody gets involved.

The photographer said he really didn’t know what to expect. He found that PG&E hydrographer Christine Bohrman and pilot Brett Hendricks were amiable companions and keeping records was not difficult.

“It was a fantastic day flying in a helicopter, seeing the Sierra up close and just being part of it,” he said. “My name is in the register as the record keeper for those places.”

The places included wind-swept Blackcap Basin above 10,000 feet in the Kings River watershed. These high Sierra basins are amazing to see in summer, but Crosse had the opportunity to photograph one from a helicopter in March with snow everywhere.

That stop simply was not usually part of the itinerary in past years.

Crosse and I have backpacked for  stories at The Bee over the last 18 years — Mount Whitney, Half Dome, lengthy sections of the John Muir Trail. He is no stranger to interesting outdoor photography. But he said this assignment stands out.

“This assignment is on my list as one of the best experiences I’ve had at The Bee,” he said.