Washington utility to add 30 MW to 170-MW Baker River

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a relicense order for the Baker River hydroelectric project that authorizes Puget Sound Energy to add a new 30-MW powerhouse to the 170.03-MW project.

FERC issued the relicense order October 17, granting the utility 50 more years to operate the project, on the Baker River in northwest Washington.

PSE plans to build the new powerhouse adjacent to the 79.33-MW Lower Baker powerhouse, one of two existing developments in the Baker River project (No. 2150). It will install two new turbine-generators with combined capacity of 30 MW, increasing the total installed capacity of the Lower Baker development to 109.33 MW. In addition to generating power, the new powerhouse will help PSE meet new minimum flows and ramping rates included in the order.

FERC said construction of the new powerhouse must begin by October 2012 and be complete by October 2014.

PSE said the relicense builds on years of collaborative studies and negotiated agreements between the utility and 23 other parties, including government entities, Indian tribes, fisheries interests, and environmental organizations. PSE and the parties initiated 76 major studies and held more than 400 meetings to prepare a settlement agreement for relicensing. The settlement, adopted in 2004, formed the backbone of provisions included in the relicense.

PSE estimates it will spend $360 million to meet provisions of the relicense and operate the project. More than half of those costs, it said, are linked to fish enhancement measures. It will build improved fish passage systems for moving salmon, both upstream and downstream, around both Baker River dams.

Improved systems will include a new floating surface collector on Lake Shannon, similar to a $52.5 million Baker Lake floating surface collector PSE previously completed. (HNN 5/22/08) The collector captures juvenile salmon for transport downstream to the Skagit River. PSE also will replace its adult fish trap below Lower Baker Dam.

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