A view of Ross Lake (Image credit: Bonnie Decker)
Seattle City Light is in the process of re-licensing that Hydroelectric power station on the Skagit River. The project consists of a series of three dams that provide 20% of City Light’s power and it is licensed under that Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC). The current license expires in 2025.
Renewing the license also means reviewing the safety, cost, environmental and cultural impacts of continued project operations. Between 2020 and 2023 we will work with local partners to develop an application for a new license that will be valid for the next 30-50 years. The license contains requirements for the protection of the environment and the culture of the watershed.
Clean, carbon-free electricity
By renewing our federal operating license, City Light’s Skagit project can continue to produce clean, carbon-free energy while protecting the region’s cultural and natural resources.
Under the new license, City Light will:
- Adaptation to changing climatic conditions and customer demand.
- Continue to work with partners to protect and improve natural and cultural resources.
- Optimize power generation and off-stream benefits such as flood control, downstream fish habitat protection and recreation.
- Use cutting edge science to protect resources and mitigate project effects.
- Identify ways to reduce electricity costs for City Light customers.
Important milestones in the relicensing process
An important part of obtaining a new license is studying the impact of the hydropower plants in the area of the Skagit project.
City Light works with38 partner organizations and consulting firms– including federal and state agencies, Native American tribes and non-governmental organizations – to collect information necessary to protect natural and cultural resources in the Skagit project area for the duration of the new license. Some studies started in summer 2020, others are still being planned. The studies required for the FERC process must be completed by 2023. However, City Light plans are also informed through dam impact studies carried out outside of the FERC schedules.
We will perform:
- Recovery studies to evaluate how visitors use the project’s surroundings for boating, hiking, and other outdoor activities.
- Fishing and water sports studies Habitat assessment for Pacific salmon, steelheads and bull trout. This helps us determine the timing and amount of water to be released from dams to protect adult salmon as they spawn and young fish as they emerge from their eggs. Studies are also evaluating the water quality of the Skagit River to aid fish and wildlife downstream.
- Cultural Resource Studies Inventory and record historical buildings, archaeological sites and traditional cultural sites that may be at risk.
- Wildlife and botany studies Assessment of the habitat status for sensitive wild animal species and for rare and culturally important plant species. These studies will help us understand how best to protect these species.
On April 7, 2021 City Light FERC will present a description of the approximately 30 planned studies. This is known as the Revised Curriculum (RSP) as it has been expanded based on stakeholder input on the proposed curriculum (submitted in December 2020).
Studies in the RSP will exceed the FERC requirements and the lessons learned will help City Light be better stewards of the Skagit watershed. FERC may make inquiries or suggestions about the curriculum prior to the completion of the curriculum. Further changes will be incorporated into the draft license application, which will be submitted in 2022.