FERC rules that 1-MW hydro project in Alaska doesn’t need a FERC license

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Dec. 14 granted a Jan. 16 application from Southern Energy Inc. that the proposed Walker Lake Hydroelectric Project, which would be located on Walker Lake, Walker Creek, and Little Salmon River, near the City of Haines, in Haines Borough, Alaska, is not subject to FERC licensing.

The proposed Walker Lake Project would consist of: two rock-filled 15-foot-wide dams, creating 4,300 acre-feet of usable storage capacity in Walker Lake at a normal maximum operating elevation of 1,195 feet mean sea level (msl); a concrete spillway and diversion channel for controlled releases to Walker Creek; a freestanding concrete intake and reservoir outlet works at elevation 1,170 feet msl diverting flow from the southeast dam into the penstock; a 24-inch-diameter, 12,000-foot-long penstock, of which about 10,000 feet would be buried and 2,000 feet would be aboveground; a powerhouse containing one generating unit rated at 1 MW at 780 feet of net head; a 50-foot-long tailrace connecting the powerhouse with the Little Salmon River; and an underground, 4-mile-long, 12.5-kV transmission line extending from the project to a point of interconnection with Inside Passage Electric Cooperative’s power grid.

The project would not occupy any public lands or reservations of the United States and would not use surplus water or waterpower from a federal government dam. There is insufficient evidence to establish that Walker Lake, Walker Stream, and Little Salmon Creek are navigable waters of the United States. However, Walker Lake, Walker Stream, and Little Salmon Creek are Commerce Clause streams because they are headwaters of Lynn Canal, a navigable water connected to the Pacific Ocean. The only FERC jurisdictional issue in this case is whether the project would affect the interests of interstate or foreign commerce. 

The project would connect to Inside Passage Electric Cooperative’s distribution system and may supply energy to the Alaska Power and Telephone Co. and independent consumers, all of which are internal to the State of Alaska and are not connected to an interstate electric grid.

Said the Dec. 14 FERC decision: “Section 23(b)(1) of the Federal Power Act does not require licensing of the Walker Lake Hydroelectric Project.  This order is issued without prejudice to any future determination made upon new or additional evidence that licensing is required.”

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.