FERC staff backs relicensing 762-MW Feather River

A final environmental impact statement prepared by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff supports relicensing the California Department of Water Resources’ 762-MW Feather River hydroelectric project.

FERC staff concluded the project would continue to provide a large portion of the electricity needed to pump water through the California State Water Project at a lower cost than potential replacement power sources. Staff also said measures proposed by DWR in a 2006 settlement agreement with stakeholders, along with recommended changes, would protect and enhance water use, water quality, fish and wildlife, land use, aesthetics, recreational, and cultural resources. (HNN 10/4/06)

In the final EIS, issued May 18, FERC staff said it revised some applicant-proposed project-related environmental measures to increase monitoring activities and accelerate schedules for implementing measures. However, even with staff changes, the document appears to be substantially consistent with the settlement agreement, DWR spokesman Mark Andersen said.

The final EIS is part of the record from which FERC will make a decision on relicensing the project (No. 2100), which the licensee wants to rename Oroville Facilities. The project’s original license expired Jan. 31. The project currently is operating under a temporary annual license.

The new document includes financial figures for new environmental and recreation measures, also known as protection, mitigation, and enhancement (PM&E) measures. The EIS said total annualized costs for the proposed action with staff modifications for PM&E would be $13.07 million, totaling $654 million over the 50 years of the new license. While that figure is greater than the $584 million for PM&E mentioned in the draft EIS, the DWR spokesman said the new figure fixes apparent inaccuracies the department discovered in the draft.

DWR also seeks state water quality certificate

DWR also is preparing a state environmental impact report for implementing the settlement agreement, to satisfy California law.

Preparation and certification of the report is necessary before the State Water Resources Control Board can issue a Clean Water Act Section 401 water quality certificate, which FERC requires before it can issue a new license.

DWR issued a draft EIR May 22, opening a comment period that closes July 20. It also scheduled a public meeting June 21 in Oroville to accept comments on the project’s environmental effects.

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