Draft environmental impact statement




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DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT

FOR HYDROPOWER RELICENSING


BAKER RIVER HYDROELECTRIC PROJECT


FERC Project No. 2150-033

Washington





Puget Sound Energy, Inc.

10885 N.E. 4th Street

Bellevue, WA 98004-5591


Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

Office of Energy Projects

Division of Hydropower Licensing

888 First Street, N.E.

Washington, D.C. 20426


April 2006


FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

WASHINGTON D.C. 20426


TO THE PARTY ADDRESSED:


Attached is the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Baker River Hydroelectric Project (FERC Project No. 2150-033), located on the Baker River in Whatcom and Skagit Counties, Washington.


The draft EIS documents the views of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission or FERC) staff on relicensing the project. Before the Commission makes a decision on relicensing, it will take into account all concerns relevant to the public interest. The draft EIS will be part of the record from which the Commission will make its decision. An electronic copy of this document may be viewed on FERC’s website at www.ferc.gov using the “Documents & Filing” link; select “eLibrary” and follow the instructions (call 866-208-3676 for assistance). The TTY number is 202-502-8659.


Agencies, organizations, or individuals are invited to file comments on the draft EIS pursuant to the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and the Commission’s Regulations Implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (18 CFR Part 380). Any comments, conclusions, or recommendations that draw upon studies, reports, or other working papers of substance should be supported by appropriate documentation. Your comments will be considered in the staff’s preparation of a final EIS.


Comments on the draft EIS should be filed with: Magalie R. Salas, Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20426. All comments should be filed within 45 days of the notice date in the Federal Register, and should reference “Baker River Project No. 2150-033.” Comments on the draft EIS may also be filed electronically via the Internet in lieu of paper. See 18 CFR 385.2001(a)(1)(iii) and the instructions on the Commission’s website under the “Documents & Filing – eFiling” link.



COVER SHEET

a. Title: Relicensing the Baker River Hydroelectric Project

FERC Project No. 2150-033


b. Subject: Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)


c. Lead Agency: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission


d. Cooperating Agency: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


e. Abstract: On April 30, 2004, Puget Sound Energy, Inc. (Puget) filed an application to relicense the existing Baker River Hydroelectric Project, located on the Baker River in Whatcom and Skagit Counties, Washington. The project consists of two developments, Upper Baker and Lower Baker. The two developments adjoin one another over a distance of about 18 miles on the Baker River. The project has a current installed capacity of 170.03 megawatts (proposed installed capacity is 200.03 megawatts) and occupies 5,207 acres of lands within the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Currently, the project is operated as a multi-purpose facility for hydropower generation, federal flood control storage, recreation and fisheries.


Puget proposes to relicense the project in accordance with a comprehensive Settlement Agreement that was developed under the Commission’s alternative licensing procedures. The Settlement Agreement contains 50 proposed license articles containing various protection, mitigation, and enhancement measures.


The staff’s recommendation is to relicense the project as proposed, with certain modifications, and additional measures recommended by the agencies.


f. Contact: Steve Hocking

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

Office of Hydropower Licensing

888 First Street, N.E.

Washington, D.C. 20426

(202) 502-8753


g. Transmittal: This draft EIS to relicense the existing Baker River Project is being made available for public comment in April 2006, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act of 19691 and the Commission's regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (18 CFR Part 380).

FOREWARD


The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission), pursuant to the Federal Power Act (FPA)2 and the U.S. Department of Energy Organization Act,3 is authorized to issue licenses for up to 50 years for the construction and operation of non-federal hydroelectric developments subject to its jurisdiction, on the necessary conditions:


That the project adopted . . . shall be such as in the judgment of the Commission will be best adapted to a comprehensive plan for improving or developing a waterway or waterways for the use or benefit of interstate or foreign commerce, for the improvement and utilization of waterpower development, for the adequate protection, mitigation, and enhancement of fish and wildlife (including related spawning grounds and habitat), and for other beneficial public uses, including irrigation, flood control, water supply, and recreational and other purposes referred to in section 4(e) . . .4


The Commission may require such other conditions not inconsistent with the FPA as may be found necessary to provide for the various public interests to be served by the project.5


TABLE OF CONTENTS


1.0 PURPOSE OF ACTION AND NEED FOR POWER 1

2.0 PROPOSED ACTION AND ALTERNATIVES 1

a 312-foot-high, 1,200-foot-long concrete gravity dam incorporating an ogee-type spillway containing three radial gates that are each 25 feet wide and 30 feet high, a concrete gravity gated intake section with an intake fish baffle, three gravity-type concrete non-overflow sections totaling approximately 1,000 feet in length, and a 12-foot-wide roadway running along the top of the dam at elevation 735.77 feet mean sea level (msl) (North American Vertical Datum of 1988 [NAVD 88]); 1

a 115-foot-high, 1,200-foot-long earth and rock-fill dike (West Pass dike) with an adjacent auxiliary earth-fill dike; 2

a 9-mile-long reservoir (Baker Lake) having a surface area of 4,980 acres and a total volume of 274,221 acre-feet at normal full pool elevation of 727.77 feet msl; 2

a 0.7-mile-long pond (Depression Lake) adjacent to West Pass dike having a surface area of about 44 acres and a total volume of about 234 acre-feet at a full pool elevation of 698.77 feet msl, formed by a 3,000-foot-long, 22-foot-high earth-fill dike with a 44-foot-wide overflow spillway; 2

a water recovery pumping station located at the southwest corner of Depression Lake containing two 54,000-gallon-per-minute vertical propeller recovery pumps and a discharge channel into Baker Lake; 2

two 13.5-foot-diameter, 320-foot-long steel penstocks; 2

a 122-foot-long, 59-foot-wide reinforced concrete and structural steel powerhouse at the downstream toe of the dam containing two turbine-driven generators with a combined authorized installed capacity of 90.7 MW; 2

a step-up transformer bank containing three single-phase, 35,000-kilovolt ampere (kVA) transformers; 2

downstream fish passage facilities (i.e., barrier net, floating surface collector [FSC], fish trap/sampling area, and fish transport system); 2

artificial sockeye spawning beaches; 2

juvenile fish rearing facility; and 2

appurtenant facilities. 2

a 285-foot-high, 550-foot-long concrete thick arch dam at RM 1.2 with two non-overflow sections and a centrally located spillway section containing 23 vertical slide spill gates that are each 14 feet high and 9.5 feet wide; 3

a 7-mile-long reservoir (Lake Shannon) having a surface area of 2,278 acres and a total volume of 146,279 acre-feet at normal full pool elevation of 442.35 feet msl; 3

a concrete intake equipped with trash racks and gatehouse located at the dam’s left abutment; 3

a 1,410-foot-long pressure tunnel, having a 905-foot-long, 22-foot-diameter concrete-lined section transitioning to a 505-foot-long, 16-foot-diameter steel-lined section; 3

a 20-foot-diameter, 259-foot-high concrete surge chamber; 3

a 90-foot-long, 66-foot-wide reinforced concrete and structural steel powerhouse located on the east bank of the Baker River at RM 0.9 containing a single turbine-generator with an authorized capacity of 79.3 MW; 3

a single, three-phase, step-up transformer with a maximum continuous power production capability of 77.0 MW; 3

a 750-foot-long, 115-kilovolt (kV) primary transmission line from the transformer to the Baker River substation; 3

an upstream trap-and-haul fish passage facility (i.e., 150-foot-long barrier dam at RM 0.6, fish trap, holding ponds and fish lift) and downstream passage facilities (i.e., barrier net, FSC, fish trap/sampling area, and fish transport system); 3

Lake Shannon net pens; and 3

appurtenant facilities. 3

101 10

Fish Propagation 10

Modify existing Spawning Beach 4. 10

Continue existing enhancement programs. 10

Decommission Spawning Beaches 1, 2, and 3. 10

Add new hatchery and adult holding facilities. 10

Fund nutrient enhancement of Baker Lake to improve sockeye production. 10

102 10

Aquatics Reporting 10

Report for all aquatic articles. 10

Consult according to specified review periods. 10

File reports on specified dates. 10

103 10

Upstream Fish Passage 10

Upgrade existing fish trap to state-of-the-art. 10

Add fish sorting capability. 10

Increase capacity to accommodate run growth. 10

Establish operations and coordination protocols. 10

104 10

Fish Connectivity between Reservoirs 10

Initiate studies to determine whether segregated Lake Shannon fish populations would use upstream passage facilities. 10

Develop facilities and programs to reconnect segregated migratory fish species. 10

105 10

Downstream Fish Passage 10

Provide juvenile Upper Baker FSC by 2008. 10

Provide Lower Baker FSC by 2012. 10

Develop stress-relief ponds. 10

Test to document performance of 95 percent passage and 98 percent survival. 10

106 11

Flow Implementation 11

Install new generation to permit variable instream flow regimes and ramping rates. 11

Increase minimum flows from 80 cfs to 1,000 cfs/1,200 cfs. 11

Operate according to new ramping rates meeting state guidelines. 11

Set reservoir rule curve to maximize recreational availability. 11

107 11

Flood Regulation 11

Continue existing 74,000 acre-feet of flood storage at Upper Baker. 11

Up to an additional 29,000 acre-feet at Lower Baker subject to Corps request. 11

Initiate early start to flood control season. 11

Identify means and methods to provide additional drawdown in anticipation of impending floods. 11

108 11

Gravel Augmentation 11

Track gravel aggradation in Skagit River. 11

Release gravel into Baker River to offset gravel interruption by project. 11

109 11

Large Woody Debris 11

Develop plan to gather floating large woody debris (LWD) from project reservoirs and stockpile for habitat projects by others. 11

110 11

Shoreline Erosion 11

Develop an Erosion Control Plan. 11

Provide funding to treat erosion sites. 11

Cultural and Historic Resources 11

201 11

Programmatic Agreement 11

Implement Programmatic Agreement and Historic Properties Management Plan including protection and enhancement of historic and traditional cultural properties, training, education, coordination, and artifact curation. 11

Report on activities and expenditures. 11

Recreation and Aesthetics Resources 12

301 12

Recreation Management Report 12

Report on status of implementation. 12

Report status of Forest Service actions. 12

Compile recreation plans, schedule, and updates. 12

Report expenditures. 12

302 12

Aesthetics Management 12

Develop and implement Aesthetics Management Plan. 12

Fund Forest Service vegetation management activities at specific sites. 12

303 12

Baker Lake Resort Redevelopment 12

Develop plan to redevelop resort area to “Level 3” campground with 30 to 50 campsites. 12

Fund Forest Service to implement redevelopment. 12

304 12

Baker Reservoir Recreation Water Safety 12

Develop Water Safety Plan. 12

Install buoys for swim areas. 12

Install bulletin boards for information. 12

Provide boating maps and other information. 12

305 12

Lower Baker Developed Recreation 12

Acquire site for boat access on Lake Shannon, or other site. 12

Develop boat launch within 10 years. 12

Maintain site. 12

306 12

Upper Baker Visitor Information Services 12

Fund Forest Service for visitors’ information facility and parking development, staffing and operations, and seasonal support. 12

307 12

Upper Baker Visitor Interpretive Services 12

Fund Forest Service for development and support of interpretive services in the project area and preparation of an Interpretation and Education Plan. 12

308 13

Dispersed Recreation Management 13

Fund Forest Service for development and support in implementation of Dispersed Recreation Management Plan and in hardening 3 to 6 high-priority sites. 13

309 13

Bayview Campground Rehabilitation 13

Fund Forest Service for rehabilitation and reconstruction of Bayview site to “Level 4.” 13

310 13

Upper Baker Trail and Trailhead Construction 13

Fund Forest Service for development and support for up to 6 miles of new trails in project area. 13

311 13

Lower Baker Trail Construction 13

Provide up to 2 miles of trails in the vicinity of the Town of Concrete. 13

312 13

Developed Recreation Monitoring 13

Develop plan to monitor recreational site usage. 13

Monitor site usage and occupancy. 13

Provide data to Forest Service annually. 13

Fund site expansion when occupancy exceeds 60 percent of total available sites. 13

313 13

Upper Baker Developed Recreation Maintenance 13

Fund Forest Service for operation and maintenance of specified facilities. 13

Adjust future funds based on expenditures formula and specified maintenance standard. 13

314 14

Upper Baker Trail and Trailhead Maintenance 14

Fund Forest Service for development and support of trails and trailheads in Baker Lake vicinity. 14

315 14

Lower Baker Trails Maintenance 14

Fund maintenance of Lower Baker Trail. 14

316 14

Forest Service Road Maintenance 14

Fund Forest Service for routine maintenance of up to 25 miles of specific Forest Service roads serving project-related facilities. 14

Contribute to Forest Service paving FR 1106. 14

317 14

Access to Baker Lake 14

Assure public access to east side of Baker Lake using FR 1106 across Upper Baker dam. 14

318 14

Law Enforcement 14

Convene law enforcement entities to develop Law Enforcement Plan (LEP) for the Baker River basin. 14

File report on LEP. 14

Fund LEP development and implementation. 14

Water Quality 14

401 14

Water Quality 14

Comply with Water Quality Certification. 14

Focus on temperature, dissolved oxygen, total dissolved gas, and turbidity. 14

Develop and implement Water Quality Monitoring Plan and Water Quality Protection Plan. 14

Terrestrial Resources 14

501 14

Terrestrial Resource Management 14

Prepare and file Terrestrial Resource Management Plan. 14

Report annually on all terrestrial measures and expenditures. 14

502 15

Deciduous Forest Habitat 15

Acquire and manage deciduous forest habitat (having 40 percent or more deciduous composition) for birds using that habitat. 15

503 15

Elk Habitat 15

Acquire and manage elk foraging habitat in three phases. 15

Annual planning, habitat enhancement and management of those lands that are acquired. 15

504 15

Wetland Habitat 15

Acquire and manage wetland habitat based on Terrestrial Resources Implementation Group (TRIG) selection criteria. 15

505 15

Aquatic Riparian Habitat Protection, Restoration and Enhancement 15

Prepare and submit Aquatic Riparian Habitat Protection, Restoration, and Enhancement Plan. 15

506 15

Osprey Nest Structures 15

Provide and maintain 10 artificial osprey nest structures. 15

Modify 10 trees near Lake Shannon to create new sites. 15

Monitor usage and expand as necessary with goal of supporting 7 breeding pairs. 15

507 15

Floating Loon Nest Platforms 15

Install and maintain three to six floating platforms for common loon nesting. 15

Monitor and report on use. 15

508 15

Noxious Weeds 15

Manage project lands for the control of noxious weeds, complying with state and federal regulations. 15

Address seven high-quality wetlands with a priority on control of reed canarygrass. 15

509 15

Special Status Plants 15

Manage plants of special status on existing project lands and specified non-project lands. 15

510 16

Carax Flava (yellow sedge) 16

Manage for protection of Carax flava (yellow sedge). 16

Inventory and map known populations. 16

Develop control strategies for invasive plant species near populations of Carax flava. 16

511 16

Decaying and Legacy Wood 16

Manage snags, logs, and residual live trees on project lands as habitat for decaying and legacy wood-dependent species. 16

512 16

Bald Eagle Night Roosts 16

Conduct two surveys for communal night roost for bald eagle near the project. 16

513 16

Bald Eagle Management 16

Develop management plan for each bald eagle nest and night roost site known on project lands. 16

Develop management plan for each bald eagle nest and night roost site known on acquired lands. 16

514 16

Habitat Evaluation Procedures (HEP) 16

Develop plan to monitor effectiveness of implementation of proposed articles 502–504, 506, 507, and 513, using the FWS’ HEP. 16

515 16

Late Seral Forest 16

Fund Forest Service for actual costs of thinning trees on approximately 321 acres of second-growth forest. 16

516 16

Mountain Goats 16

Fund Forest Service for actual costs for habitat improvements in mountain hemlock occupied by mountain goats. 16

Fund licensee’s contribution of the cost of planning and implementing improvements for up to 194 acres of forest. 16

517 16

Grizzly Bears 16

Fund Forest Service for actual cost of planning, reviewing, and implementing road closure to benefit grizzly bear recovery. 16

General 16

601 17

Baker River Coordinating Committee 17

Create topical subgroups TRIG, Recreation Resources Group (RRG), ARG, and Cultural Resources Advisory Group (CRAG). 17

Implement decision-making. 17

Track settlement implementation. 17

Resolve disputes. 17

602 17

Contingency Funds 17

Create the Habitat Enhancement, Restoration, and Conservation Fund (HERC Fund); Terrestrial Enhancement and Research Fund (TERF); Recreation Adaptive Management Fund (RAM Fund); and Cultural Resources Enhancement Fund (CREF). 17

Fund adaptive management needs in all topic areas. 17

Address some identified, but as yet unquantified, needs such as connectivity. 17

Encourage partnering with similar interests. 17

Create funding tracking account, interest rate accrual, and unspent fund carryover from year to year. 17

603 17

Adaptive Management 17

Consider alternative strategies. 17

Provide an analysis to determine the actual benefits of flow continuation at the Lower Baker dam and install flow continuation valves or other facilities if warranted. 17

With respect to fish protection measures - provide the agencies and tribes copies of operational records, allow agencies and tribes reasonable access in the performance of their official duties, and notify agencies and tribes of all unusual operational occurrences. 18

A recreation management report (Proposed Article 301) because there would be individual plans for each of the proposed measures we recommend. 18

Redeveloping the Baker Lake Resort (Proposed Article 303), providing a Baker Lake Water Safety Plan (Proposed Article 304), rehabilitating Bayview campground (Proposed Article 309), and constructing new trails near Upper Baker (Proposed Article 310) because these facilities or measures are not needed for project purposes and sufficient recreation would be provided at the project with the other measures we recommend. 18

Monitoring recreation occupancy levels, expanding recreation capacity (Proposed Article 312) at non-project sites, and providing funds to the Forest Service (Proposed Article 313) to maintain certain developed non-project recreation sites because sufficient recreation would be provided at the project with the measures we recommend. Further, the Commission’s provisions for monitoring project recreation facilities would adequately address future needs. 18

Providing funds for a Law Enforcement Plan (Proposed Article 318) because local law enforcement is not a matter of Commission jurisdiction but is the responsibility of local law enforcement agencies. 18

Providing a Terrestrial Resources Management Plan (Proposed Article 501) because there would be individual plans for each of the proposed measures we recommend. 18

Providing an Aquatic Riparian Habitat Protection, Restoration, and Enhancement Plan (Proposed Article 505) because this measure does not appear to be worth its high cost and because we recommend other aquatic measures that are adequate for the project. 18

Providing funds to the Forest Service to improve habitat for mountain goats (Proposed Article 516) and providing funds to the Forest Service to improve habitat for grizzly bears because these measures do not have a clear nexus to project effects or purposes. 19

Providing aquatic, recreation, terrestrial, and cultural resource contingency funds (Proposed Article 602) to mitigate unforeseen effects not otherwise addressed in other proposed license articles because we are not certain these funds would be needed or how these funds would be used, and we are recommending a comprehensive set of measures designed to protect, mitigate, and enhance environmental resources at the project. 19

Complying with certain adaptive management provisions (Proposed Article 603) because the stated provisions are too vague to be enforceable and are not specific with regards to individual measures. 19

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