FERC EIS recommends relicensing 25-MW Swan Falls

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff has issued a final environmental impact statement recommending the relicensing of the 25-MW Swan Falls hydroelectric project in Idaho.

Swan Falls is located in Ada and Owyhee counties of Idaho on the Snake River.

Licensee Idaho Power Co. recommends renewing the project license (No. 503) with no increase in installed capacity. However, the utility proposes a series of resource management plans covering water quality, wildlife habitat and enhancement, noxious weeds, special status plants, recreation, cultural resources, and historic properties. Although the project currently occupies 529 acres of federal lands, Idaho Power proposes reducing the project boundary to include only 181 acres of federal lands.

In the EIS, FERC staff recommended Idaho Power’s relicensing proposal with some modifications to the proposed management plans, based on recommendations of state and federal resources agencies.

Also under the staff alternative, Swan Falls would be operated to include measures proposed by Idaho Power for its 1,166.9-MW Hells Canyon hydroelectric complex, downstream on the Snake. Hells Canyon, which includes the 585.4-MW Brownlee, 391.5-MW Hells Canyon, and 190-MW Oxbow powerhouses, also is undergoing relicensing.

Under the Hells Canyon proceeding, Idaho Power has proposed a white sturgeon conservation plan. The Swan Falls EIS added the Hells Canyon plan’s measures to rebuild the sturgeon population in Swan Falls’ nearby reach.

If Swan Falls were relicensed with no changes, it would produce power in the first year at a cost of $2.1 million, or $13.15 per MWh, less than the cost of alternative power. By relicensing it as proposed, it would produce power at a cost of $1.4 million, or $8.83 per MWh, less than alternative power.

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