After two years of careful study and negotiations, Seattle City Light and Pend Oreille Public Utility District, along with several state and federal agencies, the Kalispel Tribe, conservation groups and concerned local citizens, filed two comprehensive settlement agreements March 29 with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The filings signify the culmination of many years of effort to resolve issues related to relicensing of the Boundary Hydroelectric Project and the surrender of the Sullivan Hydroelectric Project.
“Rarely is FERC presented with two jointly filed settlement agreements that will enable FERC to take action on two projects simultaneously,” stated Jorge Carrasco, Superintendent of Seattle City Light. “What makes these agreements unique are the cost savings and environmental benefits that were made possible by combining the re-licensing of a hydroelectric dam owned by one licensee, with the dismantling of a dam owned by another licensee on a tributary of the same river.”
The Boundary Project includes Boundary Dam and is located on the Pend Oreille River in northeast Washington State. It is owned and operated by Seattle City Light and accounts for more than half the power the utility produces.
The Sullivan Creek Project, owned and operated by the Pend Oreille Public Utility District, is located on Sullivan Creek – a major tributary entering the Pend Oreille River about 10 miles upstream from Boundary Dam. The Sullivan Creek Project includes the Mill Pond Dam, Sullivan Dam and Reservoir, and the Sullivan Creek Diversion Dam. Hydroelectric operations at Sullivan Creek were discontinued in 1956. The project currently provides summer recreational opportunities and additional water for downstream hydroelectric dams October through May.
In submitting these agreements, the US Forest Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service, WA Department of Ecology, WA Department of Fish & Wildlife, American Whitewater, Lands Council, Selkirk Conservation Alliance, Kalispel Tribe and several members of the public support the continuation of power generation at Boundary Dam, while agreeing to the removal of the Mill Pond Dam, a major fish barrier. In addition to addressing dam operations, these agreements provide for the protection and enhancement of fish and wildlife habitat, native species protection, improved public recreation facilities and programs, and a commitment to maintaining the regional quality of life enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.
Removal of Mill Pond Dam will provide potential access to more than 16 miles of spawning, rearing, overwintering and foraging habitat for fish. Upstream fish passage will also be provided at Boundary Dam to connect habitats and fish populations above and below Boundary Project, which should lead to healthier populations of native fish throughout the Pend Oreille basin.
Also included in the settlement agreement provisions are measures to enhance recreational opportunities in the watershed. These include new reservoir operations at Sullivan Lake to improve angling and sport fish populations in the Lake; measures to benefit native fish in Sullivan Lake, Sullivan Creek, and Outlet Creek; improved summer recreation lake levels; and improved fall paddling opportunities on Sullivan Creek.
Under the terms of the agreements, the Boundary Project will continue to provide electricity much the same as it has during the past 50 years.
With the filing of this joint agreement, FERC will conduct its own environmental review of the proposal before making a final licensing decision in 2011.
Seattle City Light is the ninth largest public electric utility in the United States. It has the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to nearly 1 million Seattle area residents. City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.
Pend Oreille PUD is a public utility district located in Northeast Washington State, providing quality service at low cost including power, drinking water and wholesale broadband service to residential, commercial and industrial customers in Pend Oreille County.