By Joe Dennis
Grant Co. Journal
An overview of progress made during 1999 and a look at what lies ahead for 2000, was presented during a pair of public meetings Tuesday as the Grant County PUD continues the relicensing process for the Priest Rapids Hydroelectric project.
The two-hour sessions, held at Big Bend Community College, allowed PUD officials responsible for relicensing activities to report on the progress made since establishing solution groups to deal with specific relicensing issues.
The relicensing process for the district’s Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams officially began with a public meeting held last spring and is expected to continue through the issuance for a new operating license by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2005.
In an effort to streamline the process and avoid lengthy delays which could result in numerous year-to-year license extensions before a renewal license is granted, the district is following a newly established alternative licensing procedure, Dave Schwall, the district’s relicensing coordinator explained.
By following the alternate relicensing process, it is hoped that issues can be resolved before the license application goes to FERC, rather than having various agencies and interested parties request conditions be added to the new license while it is before the federal licensing agency, PUD manager Don Godard explained.
Without following the alternative process, Grant PUD could be looking at operating the two dams on a succession of temporary license extensions for an indefinite period of time.
The sessions drew 60 people, 35 for the afternoon session and 25 for the evening presentation, PUD spokesman Gary Garnant said.
Joining Schwall on the program were biologist Joe Lukas who addressed fish, water quality and limnology issues; Pete Rice, who outlined what is being done in terms of cultural resources; Tom Dresser who spoke on wildlife and botanical issues; and Schwall who addressed issues of actual operations of the two dams.
The solutions groups have gathered a list of concerns in each of the areas covered by the groups, determined whether they were related to the relicensing process, and determined what type of studies may be required to address them, Schwall explained.
Based on the results of the groups, which include representatives of governmental agencies, tribes, organizations and citizens with an interest in each specific area, recommendations will be made on what measures should be included in the finished license.
Under FERC time line, the actual final license application will be filed in 2003 with renewal expected to be granted in 2005.
Responding to questions from the public on the relicensing process, Godard said the real question facing the district and Grant PUD commissioners is not so much renewal of the license, but whether the renewal can be achieved with conditions that allow the project to remain economically viable.
“That’s why it is so important that the public stays involved and participates in the process,” added Dean Hagerty, PUD commission president.
Scwall said he was unaware of any utility which had publicly indicated it would challenge Grant PUD for the license, and said he has not yet heard any indications the license will be challenged by interests calling for removal of the two mid-Columbia River dams.
“As far as I know, dam removal has not become an issue here,” he said. “So far the focus has been on the four federal Snake River dams.”
Grant Co. Journal
January 27, 2000