FERC EIS recommends relicensing 1,236.6-MW Rocky Reach

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff has issued an environmental impact statement that recommends relicensing the 1,236.6-MW Rocky Reach project with staff mitigation that only adds $150,000 to the licensee’s proposal.

FERC issued the final EIS Aug. 4 for Rocky Reach (No. 2145), on the Columbia River near Wenatchee, Wash. It will consider the document when preparing a relicense order.

Chelan County Public Utility District No. 1, the project owner, filed a relicense application in June 2004. It is operating Rocky Reach under an annual license since the original license expired.

In the final EIS, FERC staff assessed: a no-action alternative, continuing to operate the project with no changes; the applicant’s alternative, operating the project as proposed by Chelan County PUD under terms of a settlement agreement with resource agencies and stakeholders; and the staff alternative, operating the project as proposed by the applicant with additional or modified environmental measures.

FERC staff declared its own alternative to be the preferred alternative, saying it would provide a significant and dependable source of electricity for the region, 6,000 gigawatt-hours annually; avoid the need for an equivalent amount of fossil-fired generation; and protect, mitigate, and enhance the resource, beyond measures proposed by Chelan County PUD. FERC staff said the cost of environmental measures under its alternative is worthwhile, and would outweigh consequences of not implementing other alternatives or of denying a relicense.

All three project alternatives have same annual power value

All three alternatives have the same average annual power value of $236.86 million, or $39.27 per MWh, based on the current cost of replacement power.

Under the no-action alternative, the licensee would continue to operate the project as it does now with no changes or enhancements. FERC staff said the average annual cost would be $79.89 million, about $13.25/MWh. Subtracting the cost from the average annual power value results in an average annual net benefit of $156.97 million, about $26.02/MWh.

Chelan County’s proposal would have an average annual cost of $97.33 million, about $16.14/MWh, resulting in an average annual net benefit of $139.53 million, about $23.14/MWh.

The staff alternative has an average annual cost of $97.19 million, about $16.11/MWh, resulting in an average annual net benefit of $139.68 million, about $23.16 MWh.

Chelan County’s proposal includes a number of environmental measures that FERC staff called significant, such as continued implementation of an Anadromous Fish Agreement and Habitat Conservation Plan added to the project license as an amendment in 2004, restoration and maintenance of a fish bypass, hatchery improvements, and improvements to recreational facilities.

The staff alternative includes most measures proposed by the licensee, plus additional measures, including those recommended by state and federal agencies pursuant to Federal Power Act sections 18, 4(e), and 10(j).

However, the staff alternative excludes some recommendations filed by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and the U.S. Forest Service. For example, it does not include measures that would establish goals for juvenile salmonid mortality and fish passage efficiency, and for adult upstream salmonid passage.

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