Thesis

The power of water: a history of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s Upper American River Project

This thesis traces the history of the Upper American River Project (UARP) from its original conception through construction. Owned and operated by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), the UARP is a publicly owned hydroelectric project located in the northern Sierra Nevada built between 1957 and 1971. Using institutional documents and publications, government reports, and regional newspapers, this thesis examines how post-Gold Rush era hydroelectric development and the City of Sacramento’s quest for clean drinking water ultimately led to the construction and public ownership of a series of interconnected dams, powerhouses, tunnels, penstocks, and transmission lines in the upper American River watershed. Furthermore, the creation of SMUD in 1923, its entry into the electric utility industry during the 1930s and 1940s, and a rapid increase in regional demand for electricity during the 1950s each played key roles in the UARP’s history. This thesis describes how the UARP began as an idea created within a local culture and over time within a broader social, economic, technological, and political context developed into a major power project that supported the development of Sacramento and the greater Sacramento region.

Thesis (M.A., History)--California State University, Sacramento, 2015.

This thesis traces the history of the Upper American River Project (UARP) from its original conception through construction. Owned and operated by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), the UARP is a publicly owned hydroelectric project located in the northern Sierra Nevada built between 1957 and 1971. Using institutional documents and publications, government reports, and regional newspapers, this thesis examines how post-Gold Rush era hydroelectric development and the City of Sacramento’s quest for clean drinking water ultimately led to the construction and public ownership of a series of interconnected dams, powerhouses, tunnels, penstocks, and transmission lines in the upper American River watershed. Furthermore, the creation of SMUD in 1923, its entry into the electric utility industry during the 1930s and 1940s, and a rapid increase in regional demand for electricity during the 1950s each played key roles in the UARP’s history. This thesis describes how the UARP began as an idea created within a local culture and over time within a broader social, economic, technological, and political context developed into a major power project that supported the development of Sacramento and the greater Sacramento region.

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