Preliminary Permit Issued for North Fork Snoqualmie Hydropower Project

posted October 14, 2011
by Thomas O'Keefe

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Today the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a Preliminary Permit for the Black Canyon Hydroelectric Project that would dewater Ernies Gorge on the North Fork Snoqualmie River.

The majority of comments filed with the Commission opposed the proposed project because it would dewater the North Fork of the Snoqualmie and may adversely effect recreation, particularly whitewater kayaking and fishing. Other comments stated that the proposed project would have adverse effects on aesthetic, fish, and wildlife resources. Comments also indicated that the proposed project would cause a flooding risk to downstream communities. Amercian Whitewater, filed comments along with members of the Hydropower Reform Coalition and other conservation groups noting that licensing of the proposed project is not consistent with relevant comprehensive plans.

The Commission acknowledged that all of these comments raise concerns for the potential impacts of the proposed project’s construction and operation. The stated however, that a preliminary permit does not authorize a permittee to undertake construction of the proposed project. The purpose of a preliminary permit is to study the feasibility of the project, including studying the potential impacts identified by commenters. The Commission concluded that the concerns raised in the comments were premature at the preliminary permit stage because they address the potential effects of constructing and operating the proposed project. The Commission further noted that the permittee would need to address these issue when filing a license application, and that would be the appropriate forum to address the issues.

On the decision American Whitewater's Thomas O'Keefe states, "While today's decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is certainly disappointing in light of the overwhelming opposition to this project, many additional regulatory steps remain on the road to obtaining a license to construct the project. We believe that the ultimate determination will be that this project is not in the public interest."

The next steps in this process are that the developer will have three years to investigate the site and file a formal application for hydropower development.

Relevant Background Documents

Commission Decision on the Preliminary Permit

Motion to Intervene of American Whitewater, American Rivers, North Cascades Conservation Council, and Alpine Lakes Protection Society for the Black Canyon Hydro Preliminary Permit Application under FERC Project No 14110

Thomas O'Keefe
3537 NE 87th St.
Seattle, WA 98115
Phone: 425-417-9012

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