FERC rejects Loxbridge permit app on 700-MW hydro project in Oregon

McNary Dam

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Sept. 2 rejected an April 25 application from Loxbridge Partners LLC for a preliminary permit under which it was to study the feasibility of the proposed McNary Second Powerhouse Project.

The project was to be located at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ McNary Lock and Dam facility on the Columbia River near the City of Umatilla in Umatilla County, Oregon. The project would utilize the McNary Dam and would consist of these new facilities: a powerhouse built in place of the existing McNary Dam south abutment; seven 100-MW Kaplan turbine-generators; two or three step-up transformers; and two 1,300-yard-long transmission lines interconnecting with the existing McNary Dam substation. The estimated annual generation of the McNary Second Powerhouse Project would be 3,700 gigawatthours.

On May 16, commission staff sent the Corps a letter requesting its opinion on whether non-federal development is authorized at McNary Dam, and if so, whether Loxbridge’s proposal would interfere with existing dam operations or improvement plans. The Corps on Aug. 2 stated that it believes the commission does not have jurisdiction to issue a preliminary permit or license for a project at the site. Furthermore, the Corps opposed Loxbridge’s project on the ground that it would interfere with the Corps’ operation of McNary Dam, and the agency asked that staff reject the permit application.

On Aug. 8, Loxbridge argued that the commission’s jurisdiction over the non-federal development of hydropower at the dam is not withdrawn, that its proposed project would not interfere with the Corps’ operation of McNary Dam, and that the Corps’ arguments regarding incompatible operation are premature, as they would be addressed as part of the licensing process.

Said the Sept. 2 FERC order: "Here, because the Corps, which owns the McNary Lock and Dam facility and whose permission would be needed for the development of any project at that facility, has stated that it opposes the project, there is no purpose in issuing a preliminary permit. Therefore, Loxbridge’s preliminary permit application is denied."

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