The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff has issued a draft environmental impact statement that rejects resource agencies’ proposals to mandate fishway construction at four dams of the 161.338-MW Klamath hydroelectric project on the Klamath River in Oregon and California.
In the draft EIS, issued Sept. 25, FERC staff also accepts licensee PacifiCorp’s proposal to decommission two dams in the project, but rejects an alternative proposal to remove two more dams to improve fish passage and habitat.
The Klamath project consists of eight developments, 18-MW Iron Gate, 20-MW Copco 1, 27-MW Copco 2, 90.338-MW J.C. Boyle, 3.2-MW East Side, 600-kW West Side, 2.2-MW Fall Creek, and non-powered Keno Dam.
PacifiCorp’s relicense application proposes decommissioning East Side and West Side, and excluding them and Keno Dam from the relicensed project. It also proposes a trap-and-transport facility and downstream collectors to test the feasibility of reintroducing salmon to the upper Klamath.
Draft EIS: “No” to removing Copco 1, Iron Gate
Although environmental, fishery, and tribal interests have campaigned to remove the Klamath dams (HNN 8/3/06), FERC staff rejected removing more than the East and West Side developments as proposed by PacifiCorp.
Staff did consider removing Copco 1 and Iron Gate, which it called “the two most problematic dams,” based on height, reservoir size, and landscape constraints. However, it rejected that alternative as not reasonable in the context of the relicensing.
FERC staff opts for “adaptive management” over fishways
Under terms of the Federal Power Act, fish agencies of the Commerce and Interior departments filed preliminary license conditions that would require PacifiCorp to build fish passage at Iron Gate, Copco 1, Copco 2, and Boyle. In a parallel proceeding, PacifiCorp filed alternative fishway prescriptions with Commerce and Interior that propose less expensive actions than the agencies’ prescriptions, which PacifiCorp estimates could cost as much as $200 million. (HNN 5/10/06)
For the draft EIS, FERC staff evaluated:
o PacifiCorp’s relicensing proposal;
o A FERC staff alternative based on PacifiCorp’s proposal plus staff modifications;
o A FERC staff alternative that also includes the preliminary mandatory conditions and fishway prescriptions submitted by resource agencies; and
o Removal of Copco 1 and Iron Gate developments.
Based on its analysis of environmental benefits and costs associated with the four alternatives, FERC staff concluded its own alternative would be the best relicensing option.
The staff alternative eliminates PacifiCorp’s proposal to add a surface fish collector at J.C. Boyle Dam to aid fish passage. Instead, FERC staff substituted an “adaptive management” approach to anadromous fish restoration.
The staff plan calls for implementation of a fish restoration plan for returning fish to the most appropriate project reach. It primarily would use trap and haul techniques, telemetry, and smolt collection to assess use of habitat and to focus restoration on the most promising reach. Expansion of the program to other project reaches would be based on monitoring results.
Fishway mandate would cause $28.7 million annual losses
In comparing the alternatives, the EIS found PacifiCorp’s relicensing proposal would generate 676,455 megawatt-hours annually with net annual power benefits of $12.7 million, while the FERC staff alternative would generate 669,215 MWh per year with net annual benefits of $7.3 million.
However, it found the Iron Gate-Copco 1 dam removal alternative would generate 448,605 MWh annually with net negative annual benefits — losses — of $5.6 million. The FERC staff alternative with the resource agency mandatory conditions would generate 497,931 MWh annually, with net negative annual benefits of $28.7 million.
Despite EIS, FERC cannot reject fishway mandate
Despite the fact the draft EIS rejects the preliminary resource agency fishway prescriptions, FERC itself has no authority to reject the conditions if Commerce and Interior should approve them in final form. (HNN 8/23/06)
FERC may submit a questionable condition to its Dispute Resolution Service, but a resource agency is not bound to comply with the DRS finding. A license applicant’s only recourse to change a mandatory condition is a court suit. (HNN 3/9/06)
However, PacifiCorp could submit the EIS findings to Interior and Commerce, or to an appeals court, to bolster its case for PacifiCorp’s less expensive alternative mandatory conditions, which would pursue an adaptive management approach rather than build fishways.
“The draft EIS recognized that an adaptive management approach to reintroducing fish into the upper basin is a reasonable thing to do,” PacifiCorp spokesman Dave Kvamme said. “We’re going to be following up on that.”
Additionally, the EIS findings could serve as support to FERC’s position, if it should eventually submit the fishway prescriptions to the Dispute Resolution Service.
FERC will accept comments on the draft until Nov. 24, for consideration in preparing the final EIS, expected in April. The draft can be obtained from the elibrary link on FERC’s Internet site, www.ferc.gov, under docket P-2082, or from www.ferc.gov/industries/hydropower/enviro/eis/09-25-06.asp.
Agency ALJ rejects most PacifiCorp fact challenges
In the separate mandatory condition proceedings by the Commerce and Interior departments, PacifiCorp received a setback in its challenge to factual assertions that support the resource agencies’ preliminary conditions.
PacifiCorp disputed 14 factual assertions in the first such trial-type hearing allowed by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. In a ruling September 28, Administrative Law Judge Parlen McKenna upheld most of the disputed facts, allowing that PacifiCorp prevailed only partially in four factual disputes.
“I think there are some things we are disappointed with and that we do not agree with,” PacifiCorp’s Kvamme said. “But with this decision now at hand, we’re going to continue to focus on the FERC licensing process… We’re also planning to pursue our alternative proposal currently before the Department of Interior.”
Kvamme said PacifiCorp did not know when Commerce and Interior would decide whether to accept the utility’s alternative conditions. PacifiCorp called for a trap-and-transport facility and downstream collectors to test the feasibility of reintroducing salmon to the upper Klamath Basin, which it called a less expensive, science-based alternative to the proposed fishway prescriptions.
The Energy Policy Act requires resource agencies to adopt alternative fishway prescriptions proposed by any party if they adequately protect the resource, and the resource agency finds the alternative would cost less to implement than the agency’s prescription, or would result in improved power operations.
“Our proposal will be considered by Interior before they finalize their terms and conditions,” Kvamme said. “We do not know how that will happen yet, but if certain environmental and cost criteria are met, they must accept our alternative.
“So, this is the first time a licensee has gone through this full process provided under the Energy Policy Act, and I think all the parties are taking this a step at a time,” he added.