FERC denies successive preliminary permit for 500-MW Banks Lake Pumped Storage

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued an order denying a successive preliminary permit for the 500-MW Banks Lake Pumped Storage Project.

The proposed project would have been located on federal lands administered by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, on Banks Lane and Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake near Grand Coulee in Grant County, Washington. The project would have used Banks Lake as the upper reservoir and Roosevelt Lake as the lower reservoir. Both lakes are components of Reclamation’s Columbia Basin Project.

Banks Lake Pumped Storage would consist of new water conveyance tunnels, intakes and a powerhouse containing three turbine-generator units.

FERC issued developer Columbia Basin Hydropower (CBHP) a three-year preliminary permit to study the feasibility of this project on Aug. 22, 2013. Because hydroelectric development on Roosevelt Lake is reserved for federal development under Reclamation law, FERC only has jurisdiction over the portion of the facilities located outside the boundaries of Roosevelt Lake. Reclamation has jurisdiction over the portion located within Roosevelt Lake. Accordingly, CBHP would need to obtain a lease of power privilege from Reclamation.

FERC issued a two-year extension of the preliminary permit on July 5, 2016, citing CBHP’s “substantial progress toward filing a license application as evidenced by its filing of a Pre-Application Document and its Notice of Intent to file a license application using the Traditional Licensing Process.”

The company filed the application for the successive preliminary permit on Aug. 1, 2018, saying it was willing to accept a limited term of 18 months.

Although the Federal Power Act does not address the issue of how many preliminary permits an applicant may receive for the same site, FERC only grants a second request for a longer permit time when the permittee has demonstrated that extraordinary circumstances or factors outside of its control prevented it from filing a license application. FERC said CBHP failed to meet that burden.

However, FERC did say that “holding a preliminary permit is not a prerequisite to pursuing a development application and CBHP remains free to pursue development of the project and to file a final license application.”

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Elizabeth Ingram is content director for the Hydro Review website and HYDROVISION International. She has more than 17 years of experience with the hydroelectric power industry. Follow her on Twitter @ElizabethIngra4 .

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