FERC denies two hydro permit applications from Rivertec Partners

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Sept. 2 rejected an April 12 application from Rivertec Partners LLC for a preliminary permit to study the feasibility of the proposed Clearwater Hydroelectric Project.

The project would be located at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Dworshak Dam Project on the North Fork Clearwater River near the City of Orofino in Clearwater County, Idaho. The project would utilize one of three vacant bays in the Corps’ powerhouse at the Dworshak Dam and would consist of the following new facilities: a 125-foot-long, 6-foot-diameter penstock extending from the Corps’ existing penstock to a new powerhouse; and a powerhouse with a 40 MW- to 50-MW Francis-type turbine-generator. The estimated annual generation of the Clearwater Project was to be 350-420 gigawatt-hours.

But, on Aug. 2, the Corps said it opposes Rivertec’s proposed project on the ground that it would interfere with the Corps’ operation of the Dworshak Dam Project. The Corps asked that FERC staff deny the permit application.

Said the Sept. 2 order: “Here, because the Corps, which owns the Dworshak Dam facility and whose permission would be needed for the development of any project at that facility, has stated that it opposes the project, there is no purpose in issuing a preliminary permit. Therefore, Rivertec’s preliminary permit application is denied.”

In the other permit denial from Sept. 2, on April 13, Rivertec Partners had applied for a preliminary permit to study the feasibility of the proposed Steelhead Hydroelectric Project. The project would be located near the Corps’ McNary Lock and Dam Project on the Columbia River near the City of Umatilla in Umatilla County, Oregon.

The proposed project would tap into the pipe and use flows supporting the Corps’ McNary Dam Juvenile Fish Bypass Facility (fish facility) located on the shore at the left abutment of the McNary Dam. The project would consist of these new facilities: a powerhouse located near the entrance to the fish facility with a 4-MW Kaplan turbine-generator; a step-up transformer; a 200-yard-long transmission line interconnecting with the existing McNary Dam powerhouse or a 1,300-yard-long transmission line interconnecting with the existing McNary Dam substation; and a bypass conduit returning flows to the Columbia River. The estimated annual generation of the Steelhead Project would be 28 gigawatt-hours.

On Aug. 2, the Corps said it believes the commission retains jurisdiction over non-federal hydropower development at the fish facility, but that the project is not technically possible because all of the water accessible at the proposed intake location is necessary and used for operation of the fish facility. The Corps asked that FERC staff reject the permit application.

On Aug. 8, Rivertec filed a response to the Corps’ letter, arguing that its proposed project would not interfere with the Corps’ operation of McNary Dam, and that the Corps’ arguments regarding incompatible operation are premature, as they would be addressed as part of the licensing process.

Said the Sept. 2 FERC order: “Here, because the Corps, which owns the McNary Lock and Dam and the fish facility and whose permission would be needed for the development of any project at that facility, has stated that it opposes the project, there is no purpose in issuing a preliminary permit. Therefore, Rivertec’s preliminary permit application is denied.”

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.