FERC staff recommends relicensing California’s 865-MW Big Creek

A new environmental document prepared by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff recommends relicensing four hydroelectric projects in Southern California Edison’s 865-MW Big Creek Project.

The final environmental impact statement, issued March 13, follows a draft EIS issued in September 2008. (HNN 9/19/08) The draft also recommended relicensing the four projects, which include a total of seven powerhouses.

SCE proposes to relicense the projects in accordance with a settlement agreement developed using FERC’s alternative licensing procedures. The settlement agreement features 23 proposed license articles containing protection, mitigation, and enhancement measures. SCE and the parties to the settlement agreement held more than 300 meetings over the last five years, FERC staff noted.

FERC staff recommended the commission issue new licenses for all four projects, saying the projects would provide a dependable source of electrical energy for the region �- 3,177 gigawatt-hours annually. Staff said the projects also would save the equivalent amount of fossil-fueled generation and capacity, thereby conserving non-renewable resources and reducing atmospheric pollution. Additionally, staff said, recommended environmental measures would adequately protect and enhance environmental resources.

The projects covered by the EIS, and installed capacities are: 385-MW Big Creek Nos. 2A, 8, and John S. Eastwood (No. 67); 155-MW Big Creek Nos. 1 and 2 (No. 2175); 174-MW Big Creek No. 3 (No. 120); and 151-MW Mammoth Pool (No. 2085). The projects all are in the Upper San Joaquin River Watershed in Fresno and Madera counties of California.

The final EIS documents the views of government agencies, non-governmental organizations, Indian tribes, the public, the license applicant, and commission staff. It contains staff evaluations of the applicant’s proposal and the alternatives for relicensing of the Big Creek projects. The final EIS is part of the record from which the commission will make a decision on whether to relicense the projects.

The four projects are part of the Big Creek System, a system of nine major powerhouses, six major reservoirs, small diversions, conveyance facilities, access roads, electrical transmission lines, and appurtenant facilities. The Big Creek System is authorized under seven licenses and operations are coordinated to maximize the value of hydropower generated from available water supply.

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