FERC draft EIS recommends relicensing California Big Creek projects

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff has issued a draft environmental impact statement that recommends relicensing four of California’s Big Creek hydroelectric projects featuring seven powerhouses totaling 865 MW.

The draft EIS, issued Sept. 12, endorses the relicensing proposal of licensee Southern California Edison, plus FERC staff modifications and recommended changes to proposed settlement agreement terms. Staff recommended new licenses for all four projects, saying they would provide a dependable source of electricity for the region, 3,177 GWh annually.

The four projects and their installed capacities are: 385-MW Big Creek Nos. 2A, 8, and John S. Eastwood (No. 67); 155-MW Big Creek Nos. 1 and 2 (No. 2175); 174-MW Big Creek No. 3 (No. 120); and 151-MW Mammoth Pool (No. 2085). The plants all are in the Upper San Joaquin River Watershed in Fresno and Madera counties of California.

FERC staff proposes to relicense the projects in accordance with a settlement agreement developed using FERC’s alternative licensing procedures. The settlement accord includes 23 proposed license articles containing various protection, mitigation, and enhancement measures. Recommended staff modifications include measures provided by federal land use and resource agencies with an interest in resources that could be affected by continued operation of the projects.

SCE proposes no capacity changes at any of the projects, although FERC staff said several measures that would use flows to meet environmental requirements would reduce generation by: 47,867 MWh at Big Creek Nos. 2A, 8, and Eastwood; 108,411 MWh at Big Creek Nos. 1 and 2; 13,382 MWh at Mammoth Pool; and 19,841 MWh at Big Creek 3.

Following a comment period, FERC staff will prepare a final EIS, which the commission will consider when deciding on relicensing.

The four projects are part of the Big Creek System, a system of nine major powerhouses, six major reservoirs, small diversions, conveyance facilities, access roads, electrical transmission lines, and appurtenant facilities. The Big Creek System is authorized under seven licenses and operations are coordinated to maximize the value of hydropower generated from available water supply.

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