Project operator PacifiCorp has submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission a long-awaited Washington state water quality certification, a prerequisite to FERC approval of PacifiCorp’s plan to remove 14.7-MW Condit Dam as part of a 1999 settlement agreement.
PacifiCorp received the Clean Water Act Section 401 certification from the Washington Department of Ecology Oct. 12, more than a decade after the utility’s original request for 401 certification in 2001. PacifiCorp referred the certificate Oct. 25 to FERC, which must issue a hydro license amendment before PacifiCorp may cease operation and begin removing project facilities.
Resource agencies and groups, including American Rivers, pushed for decommissioning and removal of Condit Dam (No. 2342) because it has cut off salmon and steelhead from White Salmon River, a Columbia River tributary, for nearly a century.
In the settlement with resource agencies and stakeholder groups, PacifiCorp agreed to remove Condit Dam and to decommission the project rather than spend an estimated $30 million to install fish ladders. In 2006, NOAA Fisheries issued a biological opinion finding no jeopardy to 13 endangered species from a plan to remove Condit Dam under terms of the settlement.
“With removal of the dam and old cofferdams, Lower Columbia River chinook salmon would regain free and unrestricted access to about 14 miles of historic habitat and steelhead would regain free and unrestricted access to about 33 miles,” the state 401 certificate said.
The state said 401 certification ensures that water quality standards are protected during removal of the 125-foot-tall concrete dam, built in 1913, as well as during restoration work.
“Elevated levels of naturally occurring mercury were found in some of the sediments,” the state said. “Studies indicate, however, that the release of the material during dam removal would actually reduce risks from the mercury by making it less likely to accumulate in fish.”
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