Washington district seeks third permit for 1,200-MW pumped storage hydro project

Seeking an unusual third preliminary permit for the 1,200-MW JD Pool Pumped Storage Hydroelectric Project was Public Utility District No. 1 of Klickitat County, Washington (KPUD), in a Nov. 3 application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

KPUD was coming off a second preliminary permit for this project which expired on Oct. 31 (technically on Nov. 2 since Oct. 31 was during a weekend). The project site is near Goldendale, Washington, in the Columbia River Gorge.

FERC routinely grants second permits, but generally wants to see some very strong reasons for a third one to avoid a developer trying to “bank” a site over the long term while keeping other developers at bay. This application is made in order that the applicant may maintain priority of application for a license for the project while obtaining data and performing the acts required to determine the feasibility of the project and support an application for license.

KPUD is a municipal entity organized under the laws of the State of Washington, formed by a vote of the citizens of Klickitat County in 1938. KPUD is claiming municipal preference for this project under Section 7(a) of the Federal Power Act.

During the 36 months of the just-expired second preliminary permit, KPUD researched project feasibility, entered into a suite of agreements with the primary landowner, conducted consultation, filed a a notice of intent on a license, obtained commission approval to use the traditional licensing process, and modified project design in response to new information.

Extraordinary circumstances and factors outside of KPUD’s control justify this request for a third preliminary permit, the district said. During the course of the past three years, several extraordinary circumstances outside of KPUD’s control arose that prevented it from filing a development application by Oct. 31, 2015.

  • First, in October 2014, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation sent a letter to KPUD stating that there were significant cultural resources near the John Day Dam and Columbia Hills and stating that they had concerns with the proposed project. During the months of April through June 2015, KPUD and the representatives of the Yakama Nation successfully negotiated a proposed contract for the Yakama Nation to complete the project archeological, historical, ethnographic, and traditional cultural properties studies. Completion of the studies, review of the studies by the Umatilla Tribes and Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, and agreement on a direct and indirect Area of Potential Effect could not be completed by Oct. 31, 2015.
  • Second, third-party activities related to decommissioning and clean-up of the proposed site, which for decades included an aluminum smelter in the vicinity of the proposed lower reservoir, have prevented KPUD from completing its license application. The entire proposed pumped storage facility property is owned by National Smelter, which along with Lockheed Martin is responsible for the assessment and cleanup of the former smelter site. A final plan for clean-up responsibilities and timelines will be developed for all contaminated areas within the project area.
  • Third, in the spring of 2015, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) provided new information on an active Golden Eagle nest in the project area. The new Golden Eagle information necessitated a relocation and redesign of the lower reservoir, shifting the footprint of the lower reservoir to the east.
  • Fourth, in addition to the Golden Eagle nest information, WDFW also requested multiple years of migratory bird and Bald Eagle studies. The additional studies requested by WDFW require an additional season of field study before KPUD can file its development application.

As for the project itself, estimated average annual energy output would be 10 hours of generation, 7 days a week, which will produce approximately 4,200,000 MWhs annually. The facility would consist of four 300-MW turbines.

Project contact information is: Public Utility District No. 1 of Klickitat County, Jim Smith, General Manager, 1313 S. Columbus Ave. Goldendale, WA 98620, Phone: 509-773-5891.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.