During the relicensing of the Nisqually Hydroelectric Project (P-1862), American Whitewater advocated for whitewater paddling in the La Grande Gorge. In March of 1997, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a License Order that included provisions for a three-year trial period for whitewater boating with the following conditions:
Nisqually Hydroelectric Project License Article 428. Within six months from the date of issuance of this license, the licensee shall file with the Commission, for approval a three-year plan for continued evaluation of the potential for whitewater boating in the LaGrande Canyon.
The plan shall include, but not be limited to, provisions for: (a) Flow releases of 800 cfs and 1,000 cfs on consecutive days for six hours each day on two weekends either in mid to late November or December. Flows shall be provided either through decreases in generation, through natural spillage, or a combination of the two. Flow releases shall be planned such that ramping rates and minimum flows downstream of the LaGrande powerhouse as required by the Initial Decision Terminating Docket are maintained. (b) Soliciting applications from boaters to participate in the test, and informing boaters of the planned release dates, and the difficulty of the whitewater run. © Setting a cap on the number of boaters ultimately allowed to participate on each release date. The cap shall be a number agreed on by the consulted entities and the licensee. (d) Allowing access to the Canyon for participants only, on the release dates at agreed upon locations, and for providing a sanitary facility near the put-in area. (e) Briefings and signage explaining the potential hazards of the whitewater run. (f) Access to a take-out point at the confluence of the Nisqually and Mashel rivers. (g) Determining the daily carrying capacity of the Canyon for whitewater boa ting based on the results of the tests. (h) Filing a report of the results of each year's tests, and a final report at the end of the third year that includes: (1) an estimate of the potential demand for whitewater boating in the Canyon, and (2) a proposal and cost estimate for maintaining, increasing, or decreasing the flows in item (a) during the rest of the license term.
During the three-year evaluation period for whitewater recreation a fatality occurred in the La Grande Canyon. Tacoma Power filed a report in March 2001 requesting that no further whitewater releases be required. FERC issued the following order accepting the report and eliminating the requirement for whitewater releases as follows:
The Commission orders: (A) The Final Report on Whitewater Boating Study at the Nisqually Hydroelectric Project No. 1862, filed on March 30, 2001, by the City of Tacoma Washington is accepted. (B) No further releases for whitewater boating at the Nisqually Project are required.
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