Yakamas agree to salmon plan for 1,893-MW Priest Rapids

Yakama Nation tribal leaders have agreed to join a long-term adaptive management program for Columbia River salmon and other species affected by the 1,893-MW Priest Rapids project, which is being relicensed by Grant County Public Utility District.

With the signing Aug. 14, Yakama leaders agreed to provisions within an offer of settlement already signed by Grant County PUD, NOAA Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

Grant County submitted that agreement in February to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has issued a draft environmental impact statement on the PUD's relicense application. The agreement resolves a number of issues between the parties involving salmon and steelhead.

FERC plans to incorporate its review and analysis of the agreement in the final EIS and make its decision on the agreement in a relicense order. In the draft EIS, FERC staff concluded the relicense proposal, coupled with measures recommended by staff, would protect and enhance resources and mitigate project effects.

"The protection of these natural resources is of paramount importance to the Yakama Nation," Chairman Phillip Olney of the Yakama Nation General Council said. "We look forward to resolving other issues related to the relicensing of the dams, and see this as a step in the right direction."

Grant County said the settlement agreement is the third and final piece of the Priest Rapids Salmon and Steelhead Protection Program, along with a NOAA Fisheries biological opinion and a Hanford Reach fall chinook protection agreement.

Priest Rapids (No. 2114), on the Columbia River in Washington, has operated under a temporary annual license since its original license expired in November 2005.

Relicensing proposal would boost project by 225 MW

In its relicense application, Grant County PUD proposes adding more than 225 MW of capacity through turbine upgrades at the project's Wanapum and Priest Rapids developments. The upgrades would increase total capacity by 225.2 MW, to 1,994 MW from 1,768.8 MW. The project currently has a total authorized capacity, as determined by FERC, of 1,893 MW and a dependable capacity of 1,647 MW.

The licensee plans to install new advanced design turbines to improve fish survival. FERC amended Grant County's original license in 2004, authorizing replacement of the 10 turbines at the Wanapum development with new, upgraded turbines over a period of about eight years. It initially approved the installation of only one prototype unit. In late 2005, FERC gave approval for the PUD to proceed with installation of new turbines for the nine remaining units.

Grant County also proposes to replace the 10 turbines at the Priest Rapids development beginning in 2017 and extending through 2023.

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