FERC again rejects permit application for 1,070-MW pipeline

WASHINGTON 5/22/12 (PennWell) — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has rejected a request by Wyco Power and Water Inc. to reconsider its dismissal of Wyco’s application for a preliminary permit to study developing a Wyoming-to-Colorado water pipeline with hydro plants totaling from 550 to 1,070 MW.

FERC dismissed the preliminary permit application in February as premature. Wyco applied in October 2011 for the Regional Watershed Supply project’s preliminary permit (No. 14263), which would reserve the site while the applicant studied feasibility of the project for hydropower licensing. About 230 comments were filed by interested parties, many in opposition to the 500-plus-mile inter-basin water transfer.

In rejecting the application, the commission said Wyco could not gather all the hydro project information required by the Federal Power Act until authorizations have been obtained for a specific pipeline route or the process to identify a specific route has been substantially completed. Therefore, FERC said there is no purpose for issuing a three-year preliminary permit to Wyco at this time and dismissed the permit application.

In its rehearing request, Wyco said FERC has issued other permits to projects on pipelines and that Wyco has fulfilled all requirements for a preliminary permit. It added that the pipeline route could not be finalized until the locations of the hydro plants could be studied and established. Wyco also argued that it cannot risk the financial investment of pursuing a license unless it receives a FERC permit to establish its priority for unused water in Wyoming’s Green River Basin.

On rehearing May 17, FERC rejected all the applicant’s contentions, saying Wyco has presented no information to indicate planning, routing, or authorizations for the pipeline are in progress or are reasonably foreseeable. It said it has licensed projects on pipelines, but never an entire pipeline, especially one of more than 500 miles. FERC added such a license would establish priority for water in the pipeline, but Wyco would have to obtain priority for Green River water independently.

Descriptions of pipeline length and installed capacity vary

Wyco’s Aaron Million, a Fort Collins, Colo., businessman, proposed the Regional Watershed Supply project, a buried pipeline to carry water from two points in Wyoming, the Green River and the reservoir of the Bureau of Reclamation’s 151.95-MW Flaming Gorge project on the Green River in Utah and Wyoming. More than 250,000 acre-feet would be delivered across the Continental Divide to Colorado’s Front Range at storage facilities near Pueblo, Colo.

The preliminary permit application identified five conventional hydro plants and two pumped-storage projects totaling 550 MW on a 501-mile pipeline. Proposed hydro developments included the 240-MW Lake Hattie Pumped-Storage development utilizing a new upper reservoir to be built on Sheep Mountain and using the existing Lake Hattie as lower reservoir. It also would include the 240-MW Wild Horse Canyon Pumped-Storage development with a new 10,300-acre-foot upper reservoir and a new lower reservoir. The project also would have five 14-MW conventional hydro plants built on the pipeline.

For water distribution purposes, the permit application said the project would have four new reservoirs: 185,000-acre-foot Cactus Hill near Fort Collins; 25,000-acre-foot T-Cross in El Paso County, Colo.; a new reservoir along the western portion of the pipeline to manage Green River withdrawals; and a terminus reservoir near Pueblo, Colo.

In an April solicitation for proposals from development teams, Wyco described the project as including a 578-mile water pipeline that would feature two pumped-storage plants and six conventional hydropower plants totaling 1,070 MW. It said the project is expected to cost between $2.8 billion and $3.2 billion.

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