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FERC staff supports proposed 400-MW Iowa Hill pumped-storage

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff says building the 400-MW Iowa Hill pumped-storage development proposed by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District would be in the public's interest and provide the California utility flexibility to help meet peak power needs. FERC staff reached that conclusion in a draft environmental impact statement on relicensing seven existing developments that make up SMUD's 647.726-MW Upper American River project (No. 2101), and proposed construction of an eighth development, Iowa Hill. The draft EIS, released Sept. 21, also covers the relicensing of Pacific Gas &Electric Co.'s 7-MW Chili Bar project (No. 2155), immediately downstream of the SMUD project. FERC staff said by issuing new licenses for the Upper American River project, with the Iowa Hill development, and for the Chili Bar project, the sites would be best adapted to a comprehensive plan for the proper use, conservation, and development of the Upper American River. Under the proposed action with staff modifications, the Upper American River Project, including the Iowa Hill development, would generate 2,673 gigawatt-hours and have a net annual benefit of more than $110 million, or $41.19 per MWh. Chili Bar would be expected to generate 31,291 MWh and have a net annual benefit of $481,200, or $15.38/MWh. Earlier this year, SMUD filed a relicensing settlement, urging FERC to grant it the maximum 50-year relicense term for Upper American River, regardless of whether it proceeds with construction of the $520 million Iowa Hill development. (HNN 3/1/07) SMUD has operated the project under a temporary annual license since its original 50-year license expired in July. The draft EIS documents the view of the license applicants, government agencies, Indian tribes, the public, and FERC staff. It contains staff evaluations of the applicants' proposals and the alternatives for relicensing the projects. FERC and the U.S. Forest Service are participating as cooperating agencies in preparing the EIS for both the Upper American River project and the Chili Bar project. FERC is inviting comments, supported by documentation, on the draft EIS. Comments will be considered by FERC staff in preparing the final EIS, to be issued in January 2008, FERC's Office of Energy projects said. Comments are due Nov. 13 to Kimberly Bose, Secretary, FERC, 888 First St., N.E., Washington, DC 20426. FERC will use the final EIS to determine whether, and under what conditions, to relicense Upper American River and Chili Bar. The Forest Service also will use the EIS in deciding whether to issue special use authorizations for Iowa Hill, which would be built partially on national forest system lands.

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