The Stoel Rives Hydroelectric Team has significant experience advising clients on all aspects of FERC hydropower relicensing and related federal and state proceedings. We have assisted clients in formulating relicensing strategies, and implementing traditional, alternative, and hybrid consultation and relicensing application procedures. We have successfully negotiated interim and comprehensive settlement agreements for hydroelectric projects and relicensing proceedings. We resolve issues effectively and identify cost-effective measures in such complex and precedent-setting proceedings as Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act section 401 compliance. While we believe negotiation often yields the best results, our environmental litigators have a proven track record at the state and federal level.
We have represented power suppliers in licensing more than 50 hydroelectric plants containing more than 85 units in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Utah. Stoel Rives is a member and active participant of the National Hydropower Association and Northwest Hydroelectric Association.
Interest-Based, Science-Based Negotiations
Hydropower projects are essentially about allocating resources - water power, fisheries, water quality, water rights, recreation, etc. In the early stages of any licensing matter, we work hard to identify the parties' interests in the resources involved, and to identify potential consensus solutions. Good science is the foundation of our problem-solving approach, and we work closely with leading environmental consultants to identify tenable, cost-effective solutions that benefit the long-term sustainability of the project.
Relationships That Matter
We have excellent working relationships with FERC staff in Washington, D.C. and other federal and state agency staff involved in FERC proceedings. We also maintain good relationships with pertinent Congressional delegations, as well as with the many non-governmental organizations ("NGOs") and Indian tribes involved in relicensing proceedings in western states. Members of the Hydroelectric team have been active in helping to shape legislation pertaining to the hydropower industry. Our relationships - and our substantial understanding of the forces that have shaped current hydropower policies - can greatly benefit our clients.
The "court of public opinion" will often play a critical role in determining the outcome of a hydro-electric licensing project. The Hydroelectric Team has extensive experience helping clients develop and implement effective public outreach and communication strategies for complex projects.
Below, we've outlined a few recent projects that highlight the Hydroelectric Team's approach.
We helped PacifiCorp's hydro relicensing team develop a settlement strategy and negotiate a post-application settlement agreement for a new 50-year FERC license for PacifiCorp's Merwin, Swift No. 1 and Yale hydroelectric projects on the Lewis River in Washington State. The settlement agreement resolved issues related to the pending applications for new licenses for the projects among 26 parties, including several state and federal agencies, two Native American tribes, multiple conservation groups, as well as a number of local government and citizen groups. The settlement agreement is comprehensive, covering fish passage, reintroduction of endangered anadromous fish above the dams, a hatchery and supplementation program, fish and wildlife habitat protection and enhancement, instream flows and recreation. We assisted PacifiCorp in developing anadromous and resident fish biological evaluations as the basis for initiating ESA consultation on the proposed new license. We also worked with PacifiCorp's consulting team to prepare environmental review documents that helped build a strong administrative record in support of relicensing objectives.
We assisted PacifiCorp in developing a strategy and negotiating a post-application settlement agreement for relicensing the Soda, Grace-Cove and Oneida hydroelectric developments, which together comprise the Bear River Project and collectively generate approximately 84.5 MW of electricity. Resource agency recommendations and mandatory conditions brought forward during the relicensing process would have required PacifiCorp to implement cost-prohibitive fish passage measures for non-listed species. We drafted and negotiated a post-application settlement with federal and state resource agencies, tribes and nongovernmental organizations that allows for continued operation of the Project for an additional 30 years without constructing fish passage facilities, instead providing for implementation of habitat enhancement and restoration measures by a team of settlement-party representatives. We also assisted PacifiCorp in developing and executing a settlement agreement to decommission one of the Project's developments. The Company recently filed an application with FERC to amend its existing Project license, requesting that FERC incorporate the terms of this settlement agreement in a new license.
PacifiCorp chose Stoel Rives to negotiate and draft a comprehensive post-application settlement agreement with federal and state governments for a 185-megawatt project located on the Umpqua River in southern Oregon. Anadromous fish passage and enhancement of fish habitat were primary issues in this relicensing effort. FERC accepted the settlement and issued a new 35-year license for the project. We also are advising the company regarding license implementation and compliance, in litigating challenges to the FERC license, and assisting in obtaining permits necessary for implementation measures, including CWA permits for in-water work and compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act.
We represented PacifiCorp in negotiating a multi-party post-application settlement agreement and side agreements for removal of Condit Dam. Parties to the settlement agreement documents included American Rivers and other environmental groups, the Yakama Indian Nation and three other treaty tribes, the United States in its capacity as trustee for tribes, the U.S. Department of the Interior, NOAA Fisheries, U.S. Forest Service, and Washington Departments of Ecology and Fish and Wildlife. We assisted in amending the settlement to extend the schedule for dam removal to generate additional revenues to fund permitting for the removal. We are also working with PacifiCorp to obtain 401 water quality certification for the removal.
We represent PacifiCorp in relicensing, water rights adjudication, and other natural resource issues in the Klamath Basin. PacifiCorp's seven hydroelectric projects located partially within a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation project straddling the Oregon-California border are also sandwiched between federally listed endangered species above and below the projects. Key stakeholders include the states of Oregon and California, four Indian tribes, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Reclamation project irrigators, NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The seven Klamath River dams generate about 150 MW under one FERC license. Stoel Rives helped PacifiCorp craft an innovative ESA compliance strategy to address listed fish species, including a multi-party, federally funded riparian delta restoration project on the Williamson River, a project that brought our client together with the Klamath Tribes, federal agencies and The Nature Conservancy. We ultimately secured ESA coverage in applicable biological opinions, which we successfully defended in United States District Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Currently, we are providing legal counsel regarding relicensing and the Klamath Basin Water Rights Adjudication, which will make water right decisions essential to the hydroelectric project.
Working closely with PacifiCorp's hydropower relicensing division, we represented PacifiCorp in reaching post-application settlement on recreation issues for its Bigfork Project, located on the Swan River in Montana. By resolving recreation issues in a settlement context, the company was able to focus its relicensing efforts on other resource issues important to the company, FERC, federal and state agencies, and other stakeholders. The settlement ultimately became part of PacifiCorp's new license for the project.
After federal and state agencies proposed costly conditions for PacifiCorp's new license for its Powerdale Project, a 6-MW run-of-river hydroelectric project on the Hood River in Oregon, the company decided it was in the best interests of its ratepayers to decommission the project. The team of PacifiCorp and Stoel Rives was ultimately successful in negotiating a post-application settlement that benefited the company and its ratepayers while achieving environmental goals important to the various stakeholders. The settlement agreement resolved controversial issues related to dam and flow line removal, and disposition of lands and water rights.
We assisted PacifiCorp in drafting a post-application settlement agreement for the American Fork Project in Utah that resolved all issues related to interim operations, decommissioning, project removal and disposition of water rights.
Mid-Columbia Habitat Conservation Plans
We joined Chelan County Public Utility District's team to complete a nine-year effort to obtain Habitat Conservation Plan permits for its Rocky Reach and Rock Island projects. The permits provide ESA compliance and settled outstanding FPA issues for the current licenses. This effort required expert knowledge of regional fish, water and tribal issues affecting the hydropower industry and involved the successful navigation of several layers of ESA consultations dealing with FERC, NOAA Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and state hatchery managers.
We are assisting Chelan County Public Utility District in developing and implementing strategies to ensure its Habitat Conservation Plan permit for the Rocky Reach Project will serve as a significant basis for settlement on relicensing the project. We are also advising the District on tribal, bull trout and other issues related to Rocky Reach relicensing.