By Joe Dennis
EPHRATA- Despite a FERC ruling opening competition for the Priest Rapids Hydroelectric Project to other entities. Grant PUD is in no worse position than other dam operator facing relicensing.
That was the response of Grant PUD manager Don Godard to the Federal Energy Regulatory Coinmittee ruling issued last week.
FERC ruled that the license to operate Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams which expires in 2005 can be sought by other entities.
Grant PUD had argued that under Public Law 544 which authorized the Priest Rapids Project that only the PUD or a state agency could seek the license during the relicensing process.
We are not really surprised, we knew opening the process to other applicants was one of the possible outcomes,” Godard said, noting PUD Commissioners are expected to begin discussing the possibility of an appeal at the district meeting today, July 24.
However, a decision on whether to appeal is not expected to be reached before the Monday, July 31 meeting, he said.
Godard stressed that even with competition for the license Grant PUD remains in an extremely strong position, but noted facing competition will increase the cost of the relicensing process for the district.
“If someone does challenge it will cost more money to complete relicensing, and in that sense it’s not desirable,” he said.
In April, a consortium of 10 Northwest power utilities asked FERC to open the process, saying that several members were considering filing applications.
In addition to power purchasers since the inception of the project, Idaho utilities aud the Yakama Indian Nation have expressed an interest in competing for the license.
However, Godard noted the FERC ruling stated Grant PUD would enjoy a preference as the current license holder, and noted power purchasers are expected to have a difficult time making a case for the license because of their close relationship with GrantnPUD.
“If they want to compete, they have to show we haven’t done a very good job of operating the dams, and that would be tough to do when they have been looking over our shoulder for the past 40 years and never suggested there was anything we should do differently,” Godard said.
Commenting on the FERC ruling, Godard said the district is disappointed, but is still confident the license will be awarded to Grant PUD.
“It would have been nice if we could have put this behind us, but if we can’t we can deal with it. The statement that Grant PUD enjoys a preference certainly gives us comfort that everything will come out all right in the end,” he said.
“We just have to wait and see how it all plays out and what will happen over the next five years or so, Godard added.
Grant Co. Journal
July 24, 2000