FERC approves third attempt to license 9-MW Enloe hydro project

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved the third attempt by Okanogan County Public Utility District to license the 9-MW Enloe hydroelectric project in eastern Washington.

The Energy Infrastructure Update for July 2013, compiled by FERC’s Office of Energy Projects, reported the Enloe licensing as well as applications for hydro projects in Alabama and Pennsylvania.

Enloe Dam originally generated electricity from 1923 to 1958 when it was decommissioned because a transmission line brought less expensive hydropower to Okanogan County. Attempting to revive the project, Okanogan PUD obtained a hydropower license in 1983 that was rescinded at the PUD’s request in 1986 due to concerns about project costs and disagreements about upstream fish passage on the Similkameen River.

A second licensing attempt failed in 2000, when FERC rescinded the newly issued license due to a mandatory requirement for fish ladders by the National Marine Fisheries Service. NMFS had insisted the licensee must build fish ladders to transport anadromous fish past the project into upstream reaches where there was no historic evidence that anadromous fish had ever migrated due to a 20-foot-tall waterfall downstream.

Upstream fish passage at the site is opposed by British Columbia, which fears possible introduction of anadromous fish upstream into Canada would harm its resident wild fish. Seven bands of the Okanogan Nation also argued that native fish stocks could be harmed and that Okanogan legends say anadromous species did not historically migrate into the Similkameen.

The current proceeding is the third attempt by Okanogan PUD to license Enloe (No. 12569). In the current proceeding, neither NMFS nor the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service required upstream fish passage, although, as in all hydro licenses, they reserve their authority to require fish passage in the future.

The Washington Department of Ecology issued final Clean Water Act Section 401 water quality certification for the project in 2012. However, that certification, which is necessary for FERC licensing, was appealed to the Washington Pollution Control Hearings Board. That board affirmed the 401 certification July 23 with an additional requirement that minimum flows of 10 to 30 cubic feet per second over the dam and falls be evaluated for three years.

FERC staff issued a final environmental assessment in August 2011 recommending the Enloe project be licensed.

FERC receives license, exemption applications in July

The Energy Infrastructure Update also reported FERC’s receipt in July of applications for a hydro license in Alabama and a small hydro exemption from licensing in Pennsylvania.

Birch Power Co. filed an original license application for the 48-MW Demopolis project (No. 13102) to be located at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Demopolis Lock and Dam on the Tombigbee River in Marengo and Sumter counties of Alabama.

Additionally, Antrim Treatment Trust filed an application for exemption for a small (maximum 5-MW) hydro exemption from licensing for the 40-kW Antrim Micro-hydropower project (No. 14537) on an unnamed tributary to Bridge Run in Tioga County, Pa. The existing unlicensed project has a capacity of 20 kW and is not connected to the electricity grid. The proposed project would add another 20-kW turbine-generator and would interconnect to the grid.

FERC, which previously used the infrastructure update as an in-house tool, began making the monthly update public beginning with December 2010. The report allows the public to track the activities of the Office of Energy Projects in the areas of hydropower, natural gas, electric generation, and electric transmission.

The Office of Energy Projects’ Energy Infrastructure Update for July 2013 may be obtained from the FERC Internet site under http://www.ferc.gov/legal/staff-reports/2013/jul-energy-infrastructure.pdf.

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