Individual working groups delegated to develop priorities
By Richard Uhlhorn
Chelan Valley Mirror
With the Chelan County PUD beginning to write their license application for relicensing of the Lake Chelan Hydroelectric Project pressure is beginning to build on the different working groups to work out PME (protection, mitigation and enhancement) measures with potential costs associated with them.
After a morning of listening to updates of on-going studies on July 26, that afternoon was devoted to the PUD’s schedule. Gregg Carringion, PUD relicensing manager, told the core group that the PUD needed to have their license application in draft form by October 14 and distributed to the working groups by February 4, 2001. Asked if tbe working groups would continue to meet during this period, Carrington assured the group that working groups would continue to meet throughout the process.
Bill Humm, PUD facilitator, asked why the PUD couldn’t operate the project on an annual basis without trying to meet their current aggressive schedule. Carrington explained that under federal rules, the PUD was required to submit their license application two years before the current license expires. Once you submit your application, it is no longer our process,” said Carrington. “We will have to work through FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) and things become very complicated. In my opinion, it is very important to keep control of our destiny as much as we can.”
Robert Dach, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), said that his agency will work on their needs and are aware of FERC deadlines. Dach received the final fisheries study he and his NMFS counterparts needed to begin their work on NMFS PMEs at the Fisheries Working Group meeting earlier in the week.
That study, Potential Productivity of Anadromous Salmonids in the Lake Chelan Basin was completed in July by BioAnalysts, Inc. Jeff Osborn, the Natural Resources group leader, said that NMFS wanted to look at potential productivity of salmonids in the lake. The consultant found that if habitat was available for sockeye salmon, that an estimated 1,200 to 1,600 would return to spawn and produce an estimated 90,000 juvenile salmon which would possibly return 500 to 600 adults at maturity.
The fisheries group also recommended their lake level proposal No.2 which would help augment flows later in the summer and fall by lowering the lake 1/10 of a foot in July, and one foot each month for August and September. Stella Walcker asked how that proposal would affect dock usage at that time of the year. Forest Service Biologist Phil Archibald replied that the proposal would try to balance everything. “It is just a concept right now,” he said. “On paper it looks like it might work.”
Recreationally, Michelle Smith, PUD Social Sciences working group leader, showed a 15 minute clip from the kayaking study and expressed that liability concerns were the biggest issue. Jennifer Olsen-Fielder commented that while the kayaking was pretty neat, she wondered about the entire recreational component for the general public which includes public trails, beach access, camping, boat launches, upper dock maintenance and trail access.
Smith replied that there were 30 PMEs on the PUD list and that they were looking for cost proposals for the next Social Sciences meeting. Osborn mentioned that the kayaking video helped do justice to the barrier study in the Chelan River Gorge.
The Dinwiddies brought up the issue of log jams in the Stehekin River and asked why no study had been instigated about that problem. “It was high on the priority list,” said Randy Dinwiddie. Archibald stated that the hydraulics model of the Stehekin River was still in the process of being modeled. Carrington also said that while log jams were an issue, they didn’t need an individual study. “We are following the National Park Service plan and FERC agreed that this was the best way to handle that issue… it is not being dismissed.” Dinwiddie replied that he felt it was a real problem and needed addressing. Carrington came back with the fisheries philosophy of leaving large woody debris where it is. Dinwiddie then said that fish seemed to be taking the priority… not people. Carrington answered that the National Park Service was being consistent with all other agencies. Commissioner Jim Wall asked if it was really an issue for relicensing. “We have to act under FERC law and fish are a priority… we have to comply with that,” stated Wall. He recommended the Dinwiddies argue their point in a working group meeting. Humm suggested that the Dinwiddies wait until the Stehekin River hydraulics study is completed.
The PUD will be looking at six criteria to evaluate each PME as it is presented:
1 – Costs to the PUD – Is it too costly, in the middle or low cost. “A PME measure that is DOA (dead on arrival) is an example of one the PUD couldn’t afford.”
2 – Effectiveness of the measure – Does it have a large amount of support from the entire team.
3 – Cost sharing – Is there an opportunity to share costs on the PME measure.
4 – PUD responsibility – Is it an on-going responsibility, project related and are the easements in place.
5 – Conflicts with other resource agencies.
6 – Mandatory conditioning – “We don’t want this to be a controlling factor,” remarked Carrington.
Both Joe Kastenholz, Forest Service, and Dan Moses, National Park Service, stated their respective agencies were always looking at cost sharing and the effectiveness of their proposed measures.
Carrington stated that their were 75 identified PME issues. “We do not anticipated giving everyone their priority list,” said Carrington. Olsen-fielder asked how the PUD’s ranking comes into play? Carrington replied that it will help them make sense of what to put into the license application. Walcker asked if they were taking into account the number of people it will affect? The answer was yes, what will the economic benefits to the community be.
Humm then brought up the issue of a strawman concept where a few people would develop a preferred PME list. Jim Eychaner, IAC, agreed that it would be difficult for the entire group to come up with a preferred list of PMEs. “Not all of us a qualified,” he said. “I don’t know fish,” he added, but did state he would be happy to help develop recommended PMEs for the recreation group.
Mary Murphy, Lake Chelan Bach Fest, stated she felt the working groups had the responsibility to make those decisions. “What is important is that it is a level playing field,” she said. Eychaner replied that in his opinion it was not a level playing field. Olsen-Fielder stated that some working groups have looked at other working group studies, but that hasn’t gone on with some groups. “It would be good to look at common areas,” she remarked. Humm replied that mandatory conditioning authority could come into play, but Kastenholz replied that the Forest Service in not interested in coming to a we/they situation. “We don’t want it to come down to that,” he said. “We want us all to be in agreement.”
Dach, however, stated that NMFS would be submitting their proposals to Chelan County PUD. “I’m going to be arguing with the PUD, not the recreation group,” stated Dach. Asked by Steve Hays, PUD technical consultant who has just joined the PUD core relicensing team, if the entire team wouldn’t end up arriving at consensus, Dach replied, “We have a very acute understanding of the needs of the community.” He added that NMFS was not in a position to argue with the recreation group on the agencies recommended PMEs, but with the PUD and if necessary, FERC. “I’m not going to compromise my agencies needs with the recreation needs. That doesn’t mean we can’t resolve differences.”
Carrington asked if NMFS didn’t care what the recreation needs were. Dach replied, “We do care what the recreation needs are, but we’re not going to pass judgment on them… it is not going to affect my dollars (read – mandatory conditioning).
Archibald felt it was up to the individual working groups to prepare packages to bring to the entire relicensing team. Moses agreed the working groups was the place to start developing the packages. As the argument on how to develop a priority list of PMEs deepened, Olsen-Fielder said, “The Chelan dam is a great benefit and a positive thing for the community… a great asset. This is a consensus building process… we do need to have consensus.” She than brought up the possibility of taking the money available for PMEs and investing it to help fund projects over the 50 year license period.
Tony Eldred, Department of Fish & Wildlife, stated that there has been a good deal of communication in the fisheries working group. “Everybody has an employer and we all have to bring back a certain amount of bacon… it is a matter of credibility… being believable. Money ddesn’t enter into it. We might be able to do it (develop a priority list) without too much trouble,” he said. “I’m here because it (the process;) has been productive,” he added.
Steve Lachowicz, PUD Corporate Communications Specialist, said each group could spend a lot of wasted time if mandatory conditioning and endangered species entered the picture. “Everyone needs to mold their ideas around that possibility.” He also recommended that each working group look at how their PMEs relate and impact the project.
The meeting ended with the full team agreeing to develop their initial priorities in the working group setting.
Chelan Valley Mirror
August 9, 2000