FERC grants 50-year relicenses for Lewis River projects

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued relicense orders for four hydroelectric projects on Washington’s North Fork Lewis River totaling 579 MW.

FERC issued relicenses June 26, granting PacifiCorp and the Cowlitz County Public Utility District permission to operate the projects for 50 more years. PacifiCorp is the licensee for 240-MW Swift No. 1 (No. 2111), 134-MW Yale (No. 2071), and 135-MW Merwin (No. 935). Cowlitz County PUD is licensee for 70-MW Swift No. 2 (No. 2213), which PacifiCorp operates under contract. (HNN 8/4/06)

In a settlement agreement filed in December 2004, licensees committed to invest $309 million over 50 years to resolve all issues related to relicensing the projects. PacifiCorp said it would invest $290 million, while Cowlitz County PUD would spend $19 million, to fund protection, mitigation, and enhancement for fish, wildlife, and recreation. In 2006, FERC staff issued an environmental impact statement recommending actions to improve fish and wildlife habitat and recreation. (HNN 4/4/06)

Previous licenses for the four projects expired between 2001 and 2006. The Yale project license expired in 2001, but FERC held the processing of that application in abeyance so all four projects could be considered together in a single environmental document. In addition, FERC accelerated the license expiration date for Merwin to April 2006 from December 2009, to coincide with the expiration dates for the Swift No. 1 and No. 2 licenses.

FERC said in chose to issue licenses for all four projects for 50-year terms so the projects would have the same expiration dates. The commission said it is its policy to coordinate to a reasonable extent the license expiration dates of projects in a river basin, in order that subsequent relicense proceedings also can be coordinated.

FERC said three of the licenses require extensive long-term environmental measures. It said the annualized capital costs for environmental measures are greater than $10 million for Swift No. 1, greater than $10 million for Merwin, and greater than $5 million for Yale. It added the amount of proposed new investment in environmental measures at the Swift No. 2 project was relatively modest.

The Swift No. 1 license requires installation of modular surface collectors for downstream passage of salmon and steelhead. The Merwin license contains fishway prescriptions that include structures for upstream and downstream passage past the project, project operations, performance standards, outcome goals, and other measures to ensure effective passage. The Yale license requires construction of a modular surface collector and transport facilities for salmon and steelhead smolts.

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