License running out for Columbia River hydroelectric facilities

Yakama Nation and Pacificorp submit application together

TOPPENISH, Wash., Aug. 6, 2001 – The Yakama Nation and PacifiCorp have announced a preliminary agreement to submit a competing license application for the Priest Rapids hydroelectric project on the Columbia River.

The license for the Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams, currently held by Grant Public Utility District, expires in 2005. The dams, whose output is 825 average megawatts (enough to power 600,000 homes), are located on the ceded lands of the Yakama Nation above Hanford Reach in central Washington.

In a joint statement, the partners said that virtually all of the project’s low-cost electricity output will stay in the region for Washington and Oregon consumers served by both public and investor-owned utilities.

Under an 1855 treaty, the Yakama Nation has a 1.2 million-acre reservation surrounded by the 10 million acres it ceded to the United States. The treaty guarantees the Nation’s historic role to manage fish and wildlife, and other cultural resources in its ceded territory.

PacifiCorp, an electric utility based in Portland with 1.5 million customers in six states, has extensive hydroelectric experience, operating more than 50 facilities primarily in the Pacific Northwest.

“This agreement brings together the essential elements of experience in operating the facilities combined with experience in managing the fish and wildlife and cultural resources of the region,” the partners said.

“The Yakama Nation brings a rich history of fish and wildlife protection and a strong emphasis on cultural and recreational values in managing its lands,” said Lonnie Selam, chairman of the Yakama Nation Tribal Council.

Selam also noted that the Yakama Project will increase benefits to disadvantaged areas and peoples in the region, including tribal and Hispanic communities.

Judi Johansen, chief executive officer of PacifiCorp, said, “Combining the skills and experience of PacifiCorp and the Yakama Nation will enable the partners to broaden the economic benefits from the dams and optimize the operation of the dams while improving resource protection and enhancing cultural and recreation values.

“We expect to negotiate long-term power sales contracts with utilities in Washington and Oregon for a portion of the output,” Johansen said. “The project’s output will also serve the reservation of the Yakama Nation and other PacifiCorp customers in Washington and Oregon.”

PacifiCorp, and other utilities in the region, currently have long-term contracts, which are ending over the next eight years, with Grant PUD for portions of the output of the project. “Our share of these projects has enabled us to continue providing low-cost power for our customers,” Johansen said.

In addition, the partners will enhance the dams’ compliance with the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Yakama Nation’s treaty rights.

The partners said they would complete by October 31 an initial consultation document describing the issues to be addressed in a competing license application.

The partners will hold public meetings to obtain comment on what should be included in the competing license application, which will be submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in October of 2003.

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