Invoking provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, utility Avista Corp. has filed alternative conditions and requested a trial-type hearing to challenge the Interior Department’s proposed mandatory conditions for the 14.75-MW Post Falls hydroelectric project.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is considering an application from Avista to relicense Post Falls (No. 12606), in Post Falls, Idaho.
As part of the relicensing process, the Interior Department filed preliminary mandatory conditions with FERC on July 18. Once a resource agency prescribes final mandatory conditions, FERC is required to add them to the license without modification.
In announcing its challenge, Avista said Interior’s conditions are not supported by facts. The utility said it disagrees with Interior’s claim that operating Post Falls to maintain summer water levels on Lake Coeur d’Alene has seriously harmed the environment.
Avista said Interior’s resulting preliminary mandatory conditions would require the utility to deal with issues that are not caused by operation of the dam. For example, Avista said, based on Interior’s assumption that the project has harmed fish in the lake, the agency would require Avista to restore habitat on streams where Post Falls has no adverse effect.
Avista: Total enhancement list could cost $500 million
Avista estimated the cost of proposed mandatory and recommended conditions, plus Avista’s own mitigation and enhancement proposals, would cost up to $500 million over the life of a 50-year license.
The Energy Policy Act allows a hydro license applicant, or any other party, to offer less costly alternatives to the mandatory conditions that resource agencies impose on hydro licenses. The law requires a resource agency to adopt an alternative condition: if the alternative would provide adequate protection of the resource; and the resource agency finds the alternative would cost less to implement or would result in improved power operations.
Avista said its proposed alternative mandatory conditions provide a more cost-effective alternative to address the issues raised by Interior.
The Energy Policy Act also allows parties to request trial-type administrative hearings before resource agencies to resolve disputed issues of fact related to those agencies’ proposed mandatory conditions.
“The hearing will focus on whether DOI’s conditions are supported by the facts,” Avista said. “Avista hopes to resolve these issues through this process and be able to continue Post Falls operations, including maintaining summer lake levels, with reasonable terms and conditions.”
Avista, Forest Service agree on proposed conditions
Meanwhile, Avista and the U.S. Forest Service signed a settlement agreement concerning that agency’s proposed mandatory conditions for Post Falls.
Avista said the resulting conditions call for funding of improved recreation facilities and interpretive and educational programs in the Lake Coeur d’Alene vicinity. In addition to annual funding during the term of the new license, Avista agreed to provide a 25 percent match toward improvements at Forest Service sites.
Avista said its combined funding proposal for all recreation facilities at the Post Falls project totals $982,000 in one-time improvements and $160,000 in annual operation and maintenance funding. Another $60,000 in long-term annual funding will be provided ten years after the initial improvements are complete.
In July, Avista and the Bureau of Land Management announced a similar settlement agreement to enhance recreation in the vicinity of Post Falls while securing BLM’s support to relicense the project. Avista would spend up to $200,000 on new BLM facilities, and $33,000 annually to supplement BLM’s operation and maintenance costs.
Avista spun off Post Falls as a separate project from the Spokane River project, which also is being relicensed (No. 2545). Avista split off Post Falls from other developments in the Spokane River project because it presents relicensing issues that might take longer to resolve than the rest of the Spokane River project.
The remainder of the Spokane River project, whose license expires in July 2007, includes the 10-MW Upper Falls, 14.82-MW Monroe Street, 26.34-MW Nine Mile, and 70-MW Long Lake developments, on the border of Idaho and Washington.