FERC agrees to suspend relicensing for PacifiCorp's Klamath hydro facilities

Klamath hydro plant

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on HydroWorld.com sister site GenerationHub.com.

To give PacifiCorp some extra time to work out issues, the members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on June 16 approved a May 6 PacifiCorp motion that the commission hold in abeyance the relicensing proceeding for its Klamath Hydroelectric Project.

The 169-MW Klamath Project is located principally on the Klamath River in Klamath County, Oregon, and Siskiyou County, California. The project consists of one non-generating development and seven hydroelectric developments, including the J.C. Boyle, Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2, and Iron Gate developments. The commission’s predecessor, the Federal Power Commission, issued the original license for the project in 1954. That license expired in 2006, and the project has been operating under annual license since that time.

In February 2004, PacifiCorp filed an application for a new license for the project. In November 2007, commission staff issued a final Environmental Impact Statement on the application.

In November 2008, the States of California and Oregon, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Department of Commerce and PacifiCorp developed a framework for the potential removal of the J.C. Boyle, Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2, and Iron Gate developments. In February 2010, PacifiCorp and 47 other parties, including the states, Interior, and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), executed the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, which provided for the removal of the four developments by federal legislation and action by the Secretary of the Interior.

Because Congress did not timely enact legislation for dam removal, in January 2016 the settlement agreement’s dispute resolution procedures triggered. Following several dispute resolution meetings, the states, Interior, Commerce, and PacifiCorp proposed amendments to the settlement deal that would achieve dam removal through the commission’s license transfer and surrender processes.

On April 6, 2016, the governors of the states, Interior, NMFS, the Yurok Tribe, and the Karuk Tribe executed the Amended Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement. This deal provides that PacifiCorp and a new entity, the Klamath River Renewal Corp., will jointly file on or around July 1, 2016, an application to transfer the four developments to the tenewal corporation. Also on or around July 1, 2016, the renewal corporation will file an application with the commission to surrender and remove the four dams, and applications for water quality certifications under section 401 of the Clean Water Act for dam removal with the California State Water Resource Control Board and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. PacifiCorp’s request that the commission issue an order holding the relicensing proceeding in abeyance is in accordance with the Amended Settlement Agreement.

PacifiCorp stated that suspending the relicensing proceeding is necessary to preserve the record if PacifiCorp returns to relicensing. Further, PacifiCorp stated that suspending the relicensing proceeding by July 1, 2016, is critical to implementation of the Amended Settlement Agreement. The company explained that holding relicensing in abeyance will allow PacifiCorp to withdraw its Clean Water Act section 401 water quality certification applications for relicensing the project, and that, otherwise, PacifiCorp and other entities would potentially have to participate in water quality certification proceedings for both the relicensing of the project and dam removal.

Said the June 16 FERC order: "Given the circumstances of the case, and the complex nature of the proposals the settling parties plan to make to the Commission, PacifiCorp’s request to suspend the relicensing proceeding for the Klamath Project is reasonable. Requiring the parties, other stakeholders, and Commission staff to simultaneously proceed with both a relicensing proceeding and a transfer and surrender proceeding would be burdensome and an inefficient use of resources. Therefore, we will hold the relicensing proceeding in abeyance, pending our determination on the license transfer and surrender applications that the Amended Settlement Agreement provides will be filed with the Commission on or around July 1, 2016."

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