Avista, tribe agree on relicensing 137.65-MW Spokane River

Avista Corp. and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe have reached a settlement agreement in support of relicensing the utility’s five hydroelectric developments, totaling 137.65 MW, on the Spokane River in Washington and Idaho.

Avista and the tribe agreed to support issuance of a single 50-year license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the four-plant, 122.9-MW Spokane River project (No. 2545) and for 14.75-MW Post Falls (No. 12606), the utility announced Dec. 16. (HNN 3/11/08)

When filing to relicense the Spokane River project, Avista had separated Post Falls into a separate application from the other four developments, saying Post Falls presented issues that might take longer to resolve than the rest of the project. The settlement agreement, which will be submitted to FERC, returns all five developments to a single project license, a utility spokesman said.

The remainder of the Spokane River project, whose license expired in July 2007, includes 10-MW Upper Falls, 14.82-MW Monroe Street, 26.34-MW Nine Mile, and 70-MW Long Lake developments.

A collaborative effort by Avista, the tribe, and the Department of Interior led to the settlement, which covers the utility’s past and future use of tribal land and water in the operation of the Spokane River projects.

The settlement provides for payment over the life of the relicense of more than $150 million for environmental measures at Coeur d’Alene Lake and for compensation to the tribe. Avista noted the agreement calls for the tribe and the utility to work cooperatively to plan, design, and implement projects to satisfy license conditions.

The accord also addresses rights-of-way for transmission lines over tribal lands and future storage payments connected to a new FERC license for Post Falls. Avista is to make payments to the tribe for past and future uses of submerged tribal lands and to satisfy Avista’s obligation to mitigate the effects of the Post Falls Dam on the tribe’s resources on its reservation.

Compensation to the tribe for past storage of water totals $39 million, paid over three years once agreements have been finalized. Avista and the tribe also agreed on compensation for ongoing storage of water, including $400,000 per year for the first 20 years of the new license, followed by annual payments of $700,000.

Avista also agreed to create a Coeur d’Alene resource protection trust fund, to be initiated upon the utility’s acceptance of the relicense. Avista said it would place a total of $100 million into the fund over the term of the license, assuming FERC agrees to a 50-year license term. Avista said it will propose to reflect costs, over the life of the license, in its retail rates to consumers in filings with state regulatory commissions planned for early 2009.

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