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UPDATE - FERC staff: Relicense, don't remove, 161-MW Klamath

In a final environmental impact statement, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff recommends dams in PacifiCorp's 161.338-MW Klamath hydroelectric project remain in place and that the project be relicensed.

FERC staff issued the final EIS Nov. 16, concluding relicensing, consistent with environmental measures specified in the staff alternative, is the best alternative for the project, on the Klamath River in Oregon and California.

PacifiCorp is operating the project (No. 2082) under annual license while pursuing relicensing. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to deliver a final biological opinion on the proposed relicensing to FERC by Dec. 1.

Environmental, tribal, and fishing groups have called for removal of four of the project's dams: 90.338-MW J.C. Boyle, 20-MW Copco 1, 27-MW Copco 2, and 18-MW Iron Gate. The California Energy Commission staff urged state regulators to prohibit PacifiCorp from recovering from ratepayers the costs for relicensing improvements to the project, instead pushing for dam removal. (HNN 11/5/07)

PacifiCorp's own relicensing plan proposes decommissioning the 3.2-MW East Side and 600-kW West Side developments, and excluding the non-powered Keno development from the project boundary.

In the final EIS, which FERC will consider when deciding whether to issue a new license for continued operation, FERC staff assessed the environmental and economic effects of several options, including dam removal.

FERC staff assessed alternatives including:
o Continued project operation with no changes or enhancements;
o PacifiCorp's proposal for operating the project;
o The staff alternative, operating the project as proposed by PacifiCorp with additional or modified measures;
o The staff alternative plus mandatory conditions filed by the Interior and Commerce departments;
o Retirement of the Iron Gate and Copco 1 developments with additional or modified measures for remaining developments; and
o Retirement of J.C. Boyle, Copco 1, Copco 2, and Iron Gate developments, with additional or modified measures for remaining developments.

The staff alternative -- which the staff selected -- incorporates most of PacifiCorp's proposed environmental measures, some of which it modified. The staff alternative also includes 25 environmental measures on top of those proposed by PacifiCorp, including an integrated fish passage and disease management program, and an adaptive spawning gravel augmentation program in the J.C. Boyle bypassed reach and downstream of Iron Gate dam.

The fish passage and disease management program would include installation of a downstream passage and fish collection facility at J.C. Boyle, and modifying adult collection facilities at Iron Gate to facilitate trapping and hauling of adult anadromous fish. The program also would include an evaluation of the most feasible and effective means to pass fish to and from project waters.

FERC staff acknowledged removal of Iron Gate and Copco 1 dams would benefit anadromous fish more than other alternatives analyzed in the final EIS. However, it said removal of those dams would result in a substantial reduction in generation and high costs for decommissioning.

FERC staff again shuns agencies' mandatory fishways

As it did in the draft EIS a year earlier, FERC staff rejected the the Interior and Commerce department mandatory conditions requiring fishway construction at J.C. Boyle, Copco 1, Copco 2, and Iron Gate. However, despite the staff EIS, FERC itself has no authority to reject or modify Interior and Commerce final prescriptions, and must include them in the relicense.

The fish agencies rejected less costly mitigation proposals by PacifiCorp, and mandated construction of multi-million-dollar upstream and downstream fish passage at the four dams. The fishway prescriptions are intended to restore hundreds of miles of historic salmon and steelhead habitat.

The existing project consists of eight developments, including seven on the Klamath River, and the 2.2-MW Fall Creek development, on a Klamath River tributary.

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