The Yakima River Basin Water Storage Feasibility Study Final Planning Report/Environmental Impact Statement evaluated Black Rock, two other alternatives for creating additional water storage, and a �no action� alternative.
�None of the alternatives adequately met the criteria or were economically justified,� Gerald Kelso, manager of BuRec's Upper Columbia Area Office, said Dec. 19.
A draft EIS originally identified seven alternatives, including $4.5 billion Black Rock Reservoir, the only alternative that would provide hydropower benefits, generating more than $3 million annually in net revenues. (HNN 2/7/08) Black Rock would have two powerhouses, Black Rock and Sunnyside, expected to generate 196,751 megawatt-hours annually.
The EIS assessed the proposals' potential to improve anadromous fish habitat, improve the reliability of the Yakima Project irrigation water supply during dry years, and provide water to meet future demand for municipal water supply.
In the final EIS, BuRec selected �no action� as the preferred alternative. It noted each of the other alternatives required significant investment of federal funds, from $1 billion to $7.7 billion, plus millions of dollars in annual operating costs. While all of the other alternatives met municipal water supply goals, BuRec said none was economically justified. Only Black Rock met irrigation water goals.
Additionally, the joint alternatives did not meet four criteria used to evaluate federal water resource projects: completeness; effectiveness; efficiency; and acceptability.
Typically, following publication of a final EIS, BuRec would make no decision about how to proceed for at least 30 days. However, as the final EIS contains new information about seepage mitigation features associated with the Black Rock Alternative, BuRec said there would be a 45-day period to comment on the document.
BuRec previously found that construction of Black Rock Reservoir could result in seepage and groundwater migration toward the federal government's 586-square-mile Hanford Nuclear Reservation. BuRec included additional seepage analyses in the final EIS.
The public comment period is to end Feb. 3, 2009. Responses to comments will be included in a record of decision that could be completed in spring 2009. Copies of the final report are available on the Internet at www.usbr.gov/pn/programs/storage_study.