Federal agency requires traditional relicensing approach for Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams
By: Devin Proctor
Columbia Basin Herald
After two federal agencies and other fishery interests objected to Grant CountynPUD’s use of alternative relicensing methods, the Federal Energy RegulatorynCommission ruled the PUD must use a traditional process.
Grant County PUD relicensing manager Linda Jones said they will continue to operate the solution groups and hold public meetings, but with the latest decision, the relicensing process could take longer.
Our goal remains the same – to achieve an acceptable outcome by entering into settlement agreements with a wide range of interests including the agencies, Tribes, special interest groups and the general public,” Jones said. “While our timetable to accomplish some relicensing tasks and to implement mitigation measures may now be longer, there will be no major changes in our approach.”
FERC is the federal agency which will issue the next operating license for GrantnCounty PUD dams. The application process is expected to end around 2003 whennGrant PUD turns in its relicensing application to FERC. The existing FERCnoperating license for Grant County PUD expires in 2005.
Back in December of 1999, Grant County PUD formally asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for permission to use what is considered an alternative method of relicensing. The PUD was using the alternative method since early last year which involves public meetings and solution groups as ways to discuss and work through issues.
Several agencies filed objections to the process with FERC saying Grant County PUD had withdrawn from Habitat Conservation Plan negotiations and failed to reach agreement on fish protection measures.
Grant County PUD Public Affairs Officer Gary Garnant said the PUD disagrees with those objections to the alternative process, but doesn’t oppose FERC’s final decision requiring a traditional process.
Doug Ancona, Grant PUD’s Manager of Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs, said they have worked to protect salmon in many ways.
“We have been actively involved in salmon protection, mitigation and enhancement measure for many years,” Ancona said. “FERC’s action will not deter us from continuing to work with agencies and tribes to reach mutually acceptable protection measures for fish.
With a goal ot passing 95 percent of fish migrating through the dam in the spring, Ancona said, the PUD passes large amounts of water through the spill gates of their dams.
He estimated the amount of power lost to provide spill to fish at 200 megawatts every year.
Jones said the relicensing process will continue as it is in place now.nHundreds of people from agencies, both public and private, have taken part in the solution group process prior to FERC’s decision. Many of the groups met once a month. Several larger public meetings were held in Moses Lake last year to inform county residents on the alternative process:
Officially it is no longer an alternative process but Jones said they will still operate the solution groups and continue to work to keep the public involved.
“We want to focus on substance, not process,” Jones said. “Our hope is that all parties will continue to participate fully in our traditional, but highly collaborative process.
Columbia Basin Herald
Moses Lake, WA
May 23, 2000