FERC rejects Rivertec app for permit on up to 360-MW hydro project in Montana

Saying it lacks jurisdiction, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on July 1 rejected a preliminary permit application from Rivertec Partners LLC for the Lincoln Hydroelectric Project, to be located at the Libby Dam in Montana.

On April 12, Rivertec applied for this preliminary permit to study the feasibility of constructing a hydroelectric project at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Libby Dam Project located at Lake Koocanusa on the Kootenai River near Libby in Lincoln County, Montana. The Corps’ Libby Dam is a 422-foot-high, 3,055-foot-long concrete gravity dam with an integrated powerhouse. The powerhouse contains eight turbine-generator bays. The Corps currently has generator units in five of the bays, with a total installed capacity of 600 MW.

Rivertec proposed to install 120-MW generator units in one, two, or all three vacant bays (bays six through eight), and to tie into the existing transmission line. The estimated annual generation of the project would range from 525 to 1,576 gigawatt-hours, depending on how many generator units Rivertec installed.

Commission staff sent the Corps a letter asking whether a non-federal project under the jurisdiction of the commission could be authorized at the site. The Corps responded that FERC does not have jurisdiction to issue a preliminary permit or license for a project at the site based on the authorizing statute for the Libby Dam. The Corps stated that it has the exclusive right to expand the powerhouse’s hydropower production to reach its fully authorized capacity.

Rivertec responded to the Corps’ letter, arguing that the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1950, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014, and previous Congressional action regarding funding at the Libby Dam all provide authority for the vommission to authorize non-federal hydropower at the Libby Dam. On June 27, Rivertec filed an amended response to the Corps’ letter, reiterating its claim that the commission retains jurisdiction over non-federal hydropower development at Libby Dam, and in particular at bays six through eight.

FERC said in the July 1 order that it agrees with the Corps and can’t issue this preliminary permit.

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.