Developer studies feasibility of reviving 70-MW Tapps Lake

A developer is studying the feasibility of restoring power generation at Puget Sound Energy’s Lake Tapps Dam, part of the formerly licensed 70-MW White River hydroelectric project in Washington.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a three-year preliminary permit July 19 to developer Don Hansen of Renton, Wash., granting Hanson permission to study the feasibility of a 70-MW Tapps Lake Dam hydroelectric project (No. 12685). The permit expires at the end of June 2010.

The project would include the utility’s existing 11-foot-tall, 352-foot-long White River diversion dam, the dam’s impoundment, with surface area of 2,880 acres and storage capacity of 67,000 acre-feet. It also would include two existing intake structures, an existing powerhouse containing four generating units, and an existing transmission line.

The White River project (No. 2494) was built in 1911. PSE closed the plant in 2004 after arguing the project no longer was viable, based on a biological opinion that required mitigation to benefit endangered chinook salmon.

A number of parties, including PSE, Cascade Water Alliance, and the Puyallup Indian Tribe, objected to Hansen’s preliminary permit application and urged the commission to deny it. However, FERC said it is premature for the commission to consider arguments that the proposed project would interfere with other possible uses of the site. FERC said such issues could properly be raised once a license application for the project is filed.

Cascade Water Alliance, an organization of eight municipal corporations, is interested in developing Lake Tapps as a water supply source. The alliance said it entered a memorandum of understanding with PSE, giving Alliance exclusive rights to negotiate the purchase of the White River project. At one time, PSE and Cascade Water Alliance had hoped to complete agreements by August 2005 for the sale of Lake Tapps to Cascade.

PSE said it still is negotiating a sale of project works with the Cascade Water Alliance aimed at securing water rights for the alliance. It also is working with the Lake Tapps community under an agreement to provide recreational measures and allowing for the purchase of project works, should negotiations with the water alliance prove unsuccessful.

While PSE rejected a license for the project in 2003, in its motion to intervene it said it does not rule out the resumption of hydropower operations. PSE said that at some point, Cascade Water Alliance, or some other water purveyor, could seek a license from FERC to resume hydropower operations.

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