FERC relicenses 1,003-MW Boundary, OKs surrender of Sullivan Creek project

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued an order March 20 relicensing Seattle City Light’s 1,003.253-MW Boundary hydroelectric project on Washington’s Pend Oreille River.

In operation since 1967, Boundary Dam (No. 2144) provides 25 percent of the power used by the city of Seattle. FERC staff issued an environmental impact statement in 2011 endorsing the utility’s relicense proposal with added staff recommendations.

In a related order carrying out part of a Boundary project relicensing agreement, FERC also accepted the surrender of the license for an upstream water storage project, Sullivan Creek (No. 2225). Seattle and Sullivan Creek’s licensee, Pend Oreille County Public Utility District, are to remove that project’s Mill Pond Dam and perform other work to improve aquatic habitat in Sullivan Creek and Sullivan Lake.

“We undertook a process of close collaboration with all stakeholders to reach an agreement for the protection and enhancement of native fish and wildlife, the expansion of recreational and cultural amenities, and to ensure the water quality of the Pend Oreille River and its tributaries,” Seattle City Light Superintendent Jorge Carrasco said.

Seattle filed in 2009 to relicense Boundary. In March 2010, Seattle and Pend Oreille PUD filed a settlement agreement asking to consolidate the relicense proceeding with the surrender of Sullivan Creek, which is operated by the PUD as a storage project for downstream generation under the Pacific Northwest Coordination Agreement.

The Boundary settlement agreement includes obligations for evaluating and providing fish passage for resident salmon, including fish entrainment, improving aquatic habitat, stocking fish for recreational purposes, conserving native fish, groundwater well decommissioning, acquiring and managing land for wildlife, and other measures for recreation and cultural resource enhancement and protection. Seattle also plans to upgrade turbine runners, rewind generators, and replace step-up transformers of two units, increasing generation and possibly installed capacity.

Under the Sullivan Creek agreement, Pend Oreille PUD would retain and operate the remainder of the project under a U.S. Forest Service special use authorization. That would include Sullivan Lake Dam and Sullivan Lake. Mill Pond Dam would be removed and a cold water release intake would be added to Sullivan Lake Dam.

Although Seattle City Light requested a 50-year new license, FERC only granted a 42-year license so it will expire at the same time as that of Pend Oreille PUD’s 72-MW Box Canyon project (No. 2042). The commission said that would allow coordination of mitigation and enhancement efforts at the neighboring projects.

FERC’s revised economic analysis found that continuing to operate Boundary as originally licensed would produce power at $27.77 per megawatt-hour less than the cost of alternative power; Seattle’s proposal would produce power at $19.42/MWh less than alternative power; and as licensed, including the staff modifications and resource agency mandatory conditions, would produce power at $19.40/MWh less than the cost of alternative power.

FERC’s EIS said the plan to surrender Sullivan Creek, plus FERC staff modifications, would cost $18.2 million.

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