Hydroelectric (Dam) Re-Licensing

Sullivan Dam Surrender Project

Sullivan Lake (1,240 acres) sits on the east slope of the Selkirk Mountains and is fed by incoming waters of Noisy and Harvey Creeks. It’s been a lake for a long time but its elevation was raised by placement of a small dam at Outlet Creek in 1931. The Sullivan Dam Project produced electricity for the town of Metaline Falls until 1956 when other sources became available and cheaper. Sullivan Creek is the largest creek flowing into Boundary Reservoir and is considered by fisheries biologists as the #1 stream for reintroduction of endangered bull trout that no longer spawn within any of the streams flowing into the reservoir. Because the project was and is licensed by the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission (FERC), the PUD must “surrender” its license through a regulated process overseen and ultimately approved by FERC. The Selkirk Conservation Alliance is a member of the negotiation team along with The Lands Council of Spokane, the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington Dept. of Ecology, Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, American Whitewater, Seattle City Light, Pend Oreille County and several participating residents of that county.

Boundary Dam Re-Licensing Project

SCA has been involved in the Boundary Dam re-licensing since early 2007. Boundary Dam is owned by the City of Seattle and run by Seattle City Light (SCL). SCL has been working with FERC and stakeholders since 2006 to provide for relicensing.

In early 2008, SCA initiated negotiations with SCL to begin the discussion of protections, mitigations and enhancements.

In early 2008, SCA initiated negotiations with SCL to begin the discussion of protections, mitigations and enhancements (PM&Es) as they relate to probable impacts to various resources over the next 50 years of hydropower production at Boundary Dam.

Although SCL is reluctant to break into the linear schedule they had established and which relegated such discussions into late 2008 at the earliest, other stakeholders do support SCA’s proposal for early project (PM&E) that will be complex and require significant discussion and negotiation.

The probable inclusion of Sullivan Creek and the changing of water flow patterns from Sullivan and Millpond Dams are methods to help in the recovery of this stream as bull trout habitat and are examples of the type of mitigation that SCA concluded required early discussion. Another possible complex issue is that of toxics (mercury, PCBs, etc.) and how they affect the fisheries of Boundary Reservoir as a recreational resource. SCA is in the middle of all these discussions and will push for meaningful PM&Es for bull trout especially but also for other actions where we conclude that SCA involvement can help the natural resources.

The Selkirk Conservation Alliance was requested by the Hydropower Reform Coalition to be the non-governmental organization responsible for providing oversight to this re- licensing process with a special emphasis on natural resources issues. To date our comments have focused on the above two issues but, also, included issues relating to plans for the Fish Distribution, Timing and Abundance Study; Fish Entrainment and Habitat Connectivity Study; Waterfowl/Waterbird Study; Rare, Threatened and Endangered (RTE) Plant Species Inventory; RTE Wildlife Species Study, Bat Surveys and Habitat Inventory; Recreation Resource Study; and, the Lands and Road Study.

Albeni Falls Dam

Managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps). Albeni Falls Dam was constructed in 1955 and produces 200 million KW of electricity/year. In 2000, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issued a Biological Opinion that required the Army Corps to carry out a determination that reads: “The action agencies shall evaluate the feasibility of reestablishing bull trout passage at Albeni Falls Dam.” The Army Corps made very slow progress over the next several years.

SCA is happy to report that the Army Corps is now actively evaluating the feasibility of fish passage over Albeni Falls Dam. The Kalispel Tribe of Indians from Usk, Washington are contracted to carry out fish movement and other studies on bull trout that are relevant to the recovery of bull trout in general and to the fish passage feasibility study at Albeni Falls Dam in particular.

Box Canyon Dam

This small hydropower dam, located at river mile 34.41 on the Pend Oreille River, is only 62.4 feet high and produces 69 megawatts yearly. Developed and managed by the Pend Oreille Public Utilities District (PUD), the recent relicensing has been very contentious, but recent settlement has been reached between the PUD, federal and state governments and the Kalispel Tribe. It is available on the PUD’s website.

When the dam was originally constructed it included no measures for fish passage. As the settlement for this relicensing, the PUD has agreed to fish passage of some kind. They also agreed to a Trout Habitat Restoration Program that will restore 164 miles of tributary habitat within the next 25 years in the Calispell, Cee Cee Ah, Cedar, LeClerc, Indian, Mill, Ruby, and Tacoma creek watersheds.