Tacoma Power, tribe reach settlement to relicense 131-MW Cushman

Tacoma Power, Skokomish Tribal Nation, and state and federal agencies have resolved a $5.8 billion damage claim and long-standing disputes over terms of a relicense for the 131-MW Cushman hydroelectric project, on Washington’s North Fork Skokomish River.

The parties signed a licensing settlement agreement Jan. 12, concluding nearly two years of negotiations and decades of contention.

Subject to FERC approval, the agreement would allow Tacoma Power to continue to operate the project (No. 460) for 40 years. Tacoma Power said it also would have an opportunity to add a turbine-generator to the project to capture some of the energy from restoration flows released into the river.

The original license expired in 1974. In 1998, FERC issued a relicense order that was broadly appealed. (HNN 8/23/06) The accord resolves settlement parties’ disputes by proposing modifications to the 1998 relicense. FERC will review the settlement before amending the project’s license.

The agreement addresses issues that sparked contention for many years, including river restoration, in-stream flows, fish habitat and fish passage improvements, wildlife habitat, restoration of fish populations, and recreation. For example, the agreement calls for downstream fish passage for juvenile salmonids and upstream passage for adult salmonids.

As part of the settlement, and to resolve the damage claim, filed in 1999, the Skokomish Tribal Nation will receive: a $12.6 million one-time cash payment; 7.25 percent of the value of electricity generated at one of the project’s powerhouses, Cushman No. 2; and transfer of land valued at $23 million.

Utility officials labeled the agreement historic.

�This has been a long, arduous process that has taken patience, collaboration, and compromise from everyone involved,� Tacoma Public Utilities Director William Gaines said. �Today is an important day for us, but also an important milestone for hydropower in general. This has been one of the longest hydroelectric relicensing processes in history.�

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