Draft EIS would trim cost of relicensing 762-MW Feather River

The California Department of Water Resources would pay $584 million over 50 years for new recreation and environmental measures recommended in a draft environmental impact statement for relicensing the 762-MW Feather River hydroelectric project.

DWR filed a relicense application in 2005, saying it wants to rename the project Oroville Facilities (No. 2100). It reached a settlement earlier this year with U.S. and California agencies and stakeholders, winning their support of the relicense application. (HNN 2/24/06) Part of the California State Water Project, the hydro facility is located on the Feather River in Butte County, Calif.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff issued the draft EIS Sept. 29, assessing the environmental and economic effects of: continuing to operate the project with no changes; operating the project in accordance with the settlement agreement; and operating the project under the settlement with additional modifications by FERC staff.

FERC staff recommended most of the settlement terms be made conditions of the license, along with modifications for a trails program and closure of one recreation facility. Staff said measures proposed by DWR in the settlement, along with additional staff-recommended and revised measures, would protect and enhance existing water use, water quality, fish and wildlife, land use, aesthetics, recreational, and cultural resources.

New environmental and recreation measures proposed by DWR under the settlement agreement would cost $11.82 million annually over the 50-year term of the new license, a total of $591 million. The FERC staff alternative would reduce that slightly to $11.68 million annually. That would reduce the 50-year total by $7 million to $584 million.

Generation would decrease under both proposals, by 43.5 gigawatt-hours annually, from the current 2,382 GWh under the existing license. Power benefits would be reduced by about $1.48 million.

The project would continue to provide power, at a lower cost than replacement power, to operate the State Water Project, a system of reservoirs, aqueducts, power plants, and pumping plants.

FERC takes comments on draft EIS

FERC staff will take comments on the draft EIS until Nov. 28 for use in preparing a final EIS. FERC is scheduled to issue a relicense by March 2007.

Comments must be filed with Magalie Salas, Secretary, FERC, 888 First St., N.E., Washington, DC 20426. The draft EIS can be obtained and comments can be filed on FERC’s Internet site at www.ferc.gov/industries/hydropower/enviro/eis/09-29-06.asp.

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