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Fish, wildlife recreation to get boost from Boundary Dam license approval

Seattle City Light has operated Boundary Dam since 1967 on the Pend Oreille River downstream from Metaline Falls, Wash.
Seattle City Light has operated Boundary Dam since 1967 on the Pend Oreille River downstream from Metaline Falls, Wash.

UPDATE:  State fish managers say the small fish hatchery to be built under this licensing agreement will be devoted to restoring native cutthroat and bull trout.  Fish for stocking in northeast Washington lakes under the agreement will come from existing hatcheries under a contract between the utility and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

RIVERS -- The license for Boundary Dam has met the requirements for approval with no appeals submitted, according to Seattle City Light, and that spells the beginning of projects to improve wildlife habitat, recreational facilities and fisheries along the Pend Oreille River.

The license was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in March, but utility officials said today that the final hurdles had been cleared. 

Under the new 42-year license, City Light will be required to mitigate the impacts of the dam to the surrounding environment in Pend Oreille County. These measures include long-term water quality monitoring programs, terrestrial habitat improvements, and wildlife monitoring programs for bald eagles, peregrine falcons and other species.

For example, Mill Pond Dam on Sullivan Creek will be removed under the agreement, clearing the way for fish passage -- and kayakers -- for the first time since 1909.

A native trout conservation hatchery is planned to raise cutthroats and bull trout that will be planted to help restore the native species in tributaries to the Boundary Reservoir. Required habitat restoration in these tributaries will benefit westslope cutthroat trout, bull trout and mountain whitefish.

Contracts will be signed with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to provide fish of various species from other hatcheries to stock in area lakes.

The utility is required to make avariety of recreational improvements in the Boundary project area including:

  • New recreational trails on the east side of the reservoir.
  • New non-motorized boat access with parking and facilities at the Metaline Falls Portage.
  • Upgrading six dispersed recreation sites along the Boundary reservoir, including sanitation systems, picnic tables, fire rings and watercraft land and tie-up areas.
  • Improvements to Metaline Park boat launch in the town of Metaline.
  • New interpretation and education sites throughout the Boundary project area.

“This has been a long and carefully managed process, drawing input from many stakeholders and taking into account wildlife protection, recreational and cultural amenities, and the water quality of the Pend Oreille River,” said City Light General Manager Jorge Carrasco.

Approval of the 42-year license is a critical economic benefit to City Light’s customers and to Pend Oreille PUD customers whose primary source of electricity is low-cost Boundary power, he said

Read on for details about the conclusion of the license renewal process, according to a Seattle City Light media release:

Seattle Cit Light has overcome the last hurdle to achieve a new license for its Boundary Hydroelectric Project, which is located on the Pend Oreille River near Metaline Falls. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) deadline for appeals of the Boundary license order expired Aug. 19.  FERC issued a new 42-year license order for Boundary Dam on March 20, 2013, consistent with a settlement agreement that City Light filed with FERC in 2010. With no appeals filed, this ends the FERC relicensing process for Boundary Dam.

City Light first filed a Notice of Intent for a new license in 2006. The formal license application was submitted by the utility in 2009 followed in 2010 by a comprehensive agreement with the settling parties. The licensing process for the Boundary Project was unique in that it was combined with the decommissioning of the Pend Oreille PUD’s Sullivan Project and removal of Mill Pond Dam that the city agreed to undertake in exchange for operational flexibility at Boundary. The dam removal will open new habitat for fish and new recreational opportunities.

“Finalizing this new license provides 42 years of certainty to Seattle ratepayers and to the utility on operations and environmental stewardship responsibilities for Boundary Dam, Seattle's largest generating asset,” said City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, Chair of the Energy & Environment Committee. “We look forward to continued operations of this valuable asset while protecting the surrounding natural environment with low-impact energy generation.”

Seattle City Light began generating power at Boundary Dam in 1967. It produces the most electricity of any City Light dam – up to 1,040 megawatts of power, or up to 40 percent of Seattle’s electricity requirements. The dam is 340 feet tall and 740 feet long.

Boundary Dam is an important economic engine in the tri-county area of northeast Washington providing 50 well-paying, skilled professional jobs. It generates more than $300,000 in sales and tax revenues within Pend Oreille County and provides impact payments to the County to help support costs for emergency services, roads, schools and other benefits.

Seattle City Light is the 10th-largest public electric utility in the United States. It has some of the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to nearly 1 million Seattle-area residents. City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.

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Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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