Federal Regulators Issue New License for Fox River (WI)
Last week the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a new license to the City of Kaukuna for the Badger-Rapide Croche Hydroelectric Project (P-2677). We are pleased to report that they recognized whitewater recreation as a legitimate use of the Fox River and incorporated our recommendations in the new license.
Kaukauna has proposed to decommission the Old Badger powerhouse, demolish the New Badger powerhouse, and construct a new 7-MW powerhouse about 150 feet upstream from the existing New Badger powerhouse site. Of interest to paddlers, the new generating units that would be installed at the Badger Development would each have a hydraulic capacity of 2,630 cubic feet per second (cfs), for a total of 5,260 cfs, compared to the hydraulic capacity for the existing Badger Development of 3,096 cfs. The increased hydraulic capacity through the proposed powerhouse would decrease the frequency, duration, and magnitude of spill over the Corps’ Kaukauna dam. This would reduce whitewater paddling opportunities in the natural river channel of the Fox River bypassed by the project. Commission staff found that with the new powerhouse operating, there would be 17 fewer days between April and November when optimal boating flows would be available in the bypassed reach. Most of the effect would occur in the spring (March through May), when there would be 12 fewer days.
To mitigate for this loss Kaukauna proposed to partially fund (in the amount of $40,000) an off-site whitewater park being planned upstream of the project near the City of Menasha. Consistent with policy at other federally-licensed hydropower projects, American Whitewater and National Park Service instead recommended specific mitigation measures at the project site. FERC agreed with our proposal stating in our license order: "To mitigate for the loss of boating flows due to the increase in installed capacity of the proposed new Badger powerhouse, this license requires scheduled whitewater boating flows of 3,340 cfs, flow information for boaters, and monitoring at the Central Park access location.
While the new license and expanded powerhouse capacity will reduce paddling days, we believe FERC did a good job of balancing local energy needs with appropriate mitigation for a locally valued recreational opportunity. License Article 409 covers whitewater recreation and includes the following language:
Article 409. Whitewater Boating Flows and Monitoring Plan. Within 1 year of license issuance, the
licensee shall file with the Commission for approval, a plan to provide whitewater boating flows
and monitor boating use in the bypassed reach to mitigate the effects of increased hydraulic
capacity associated with the new Badger powerhouse on recreational opportunities. At a minimum,
the plan shall include provisions for:
(a) providing and documenting four scheduled whitewater boating flows of 3,340 cfs with up-ramping and down-ramping at a rate not to exceed 10 percent per hour;
(b) monitoring, evaluating, and reporting recreational use of the Central Park access site and boating flows for 3 years following implementation of the first scheduled whitewater boating flow;
(c) making flow information publicly available to assist boaters in planning their use of the bypassed reach; and notifying boaters of scheduled flow events and possible cancellations; and
(d) coordinating with the National Park Service (Park Service), the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (Wisconsin DNR), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the City of Kaukauna Fire Department (Fire Department), and American Whitewater, and the River Alliance of Wisconsin, to ensure that scheduled flows are compatible with operation of the Kaukauna dam, that emergency responders are notified of scheduled events, and to address other details of flow monitoring and evaluation, as needed.
The plan shall be prepared after consultation with the Park Service, Wisconsin DNR, Corps, Fire Department, American Whitewater, and River Alliance of Wisconsin. The licensee shall include with the plan an implementation schedule, design drawings and construction schedules, documentation of consultation, copies of comments and recommendations on the plan after it has been prepared and provided to the entities listed above, and specific descriptions of how the entities’ comments are accommodated by the licensee’s plan. The licensee shall allow a minimum of 30 days for the entities to comment and to make recommendations before filing the plan with the Commission. If the licensee does not adopt a recommendation, the filing shall include the licensee’s reasons, based on site-specific information. The Commission reserves the right to require changes to the plan. Upon Commission approval, the licensee shall implement the plan, including any changes required by the Commission.