EIS adds mitigation to four-project Lewis River relicensing pact

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff issued a final environmental impact statement March 24, recommending major actions to improve fish and wildlife habitat and recreation at four hydroelectric projects on Washington’s Lewis River.

The final EIS addresses relicense applications by PacifiCorp for 240-MW Swift No. 1 (No. 2111), 70-MW Swift No. 2 (No. 2213), and 134-MW Yale (No. 2071), and by Cowlitz County Public Utility District for 135-MW Merwin (No. 935). The projects are on the North Fork Lewis River in Cowlitz, Clark, and Skamania counties.

The licensees filed a comprehensive settlement agreement in December 2004, committing to invest $309 million over 50 years to resolve all issues related to relicensing the projects. PacifiCorp would invest $290 million, while Cowlitz County PUD would spend $19 million, to fund protection, mitigation, and enhancement for fish, wildlife, and recreation.

FERC staff calls for fish passage, other actions

In the EIS, FERC staff concluded that the projects as proposed, with staff modifications, would be best adapted to a comprehensive plan for the proper use, conservation, and development of Lewis River. Additional cost for the staff modifications was not readily available.

Staff modifications include:
o improvements to Merwin’s adult salmon and steelhead collection and transport facility;
o installation of modular surface collectors for downstream passage of salmon and steelhead smolts at Merwin, Yale, and Swift No. 1.;
o installation of collection and transport facilities for adult salmon and steelhead at Yale and Swift No. 2;
o release of minimum flows from the Swift No. 2 power canal;
o aquatic and terrestrial habitat enhancement;
o fish hatcheries; and
o improvements to recreation.

In the event anadromous fish passage facilities are not constructed, staff also recommended installation of upstream and downstream passage facilities for bull trout at all four projects.

The final EIS will be part of the record from which FERC makes its relicensing decisions. Copies can be obtained from FERC’s Internet site, www.ferc.gov, using the “elibrary” link and entering one of the project numbers.

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