FERC lays out lines of authority for Banks Lake Pumped Storage project

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission wrote an April 10 letter to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation saying that commission staff’s preliminary determination related to the Banks Lake Pumped Storage hydroelectric project is that Roosevelt Lake is reserved for federal development and Banks Lake is not reserved for federal development.

In December 2011, the Grand Coulee Project Hydroelectric Authority in Washington state filed an application at FERC for a preliminary permit under the Federal Power Act (FPA) to study the feasibility of the proposed Banks Lake Pumped Storage Project No. 14329-000. The authority proposed two alternatives for this pumped storage project:

  • Alternative No. 1 would use the Bureau of Reclamation’s existing Banks Lake as the upper reservoir and Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake as the lower reservoir;
  • Alternative No. 2 would use Banks Lake as the lower reservoir and an unconstructed reservoir as the upper reservoir.

Both Roosevelt Lake and Banks Lake are components of the Columbia Basin Project, and they are connected by a feeder canal that provides water for twelve pumps operated by the Bureau of Reclamation at the John W. Keys III Pump Generating Plant.

In Alternative No. 1, the proposed project would consist of facilities that include: either an underground powerhouse containing four reversible turbine/generator units rated for 250 MW each, or a powerhouse located on the shore of Roosevelt Lake, also containing four 250 MW reversible turbine/generator units; and a
 2 mile-long, 500-kV transmission line extending from the project powerhouse to an existing 500-kV substation. The estimated annual generation of Alternative No. 1 would be 2,263 GWh.

Alternative No. 2 would consist of facilities including: an underground powerhouse containing four reversible turbine/generator units rated for 260 MW each; and a 2.4-mile-long, 500-kV transmission line extending from the project powerhouse to a new 500-kV substation. The estimated annual generation of Alternative No. 2 would be 2,978 GWh.

FERC staff noted in the April 10 letter: “Section 2 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1935 authorized the Grand Coulee Dam and incidental works for multiple purposes including the generation of electric power. Along with the Grand Coulee Dam, the 1945 Report described Roosevelt Lake as a principal feature of the Columbia Basin Project. Congress authorized a third powerplant at Grand Coulee Dam in 1966 to fully realize the power potential of the Columbia River. Because the authorizing statute and the incorporated documents by reference authorized Reclamation to construct and operate Grand Coulee Dam and its incidental reservoir, Roosevelt Lake, to the fullest power potential, we agree that Roosevelt Lake is reserved for federal development. To proceed with the development of project features utilizing Roosevelt Lake, the Grand Coulee Authority will have to apply for and obtain a lease of power privilege from Reclamation.”

The commission added that it preliminarily concludes that Banks Lake is not reserved for federal development. “Although Reclamation is presumed to have jurisdiction over hydropower development at Roosevelt Lake, this does not affect our jurisdiction over non-federal hydropower development at Banks Lake,” the letter noted. “If you disagree, please provide additional evidence to overcome the presumption that the Commission has jurisdiction over additional hydropower development at Banks Lake. I would appreciate your response within 30 days of the date of this letter.”