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Process to relicense Bucks hydro gets underway

Debra Moore
Staff Write
11/29/2013
 

In 1928 Bucks Creek Powerhouse was the hydroelectric project with the highest head (the amount of fall from the crest to the turbine) in the Western Hemisphere.

Nearly 90 years later, it remains Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s highest hydraulic head facility and the power company wants to keep it in its hydroelectric system.

PG&E and the city of Santa Clara took the first step to do just that by filing a notice of intent and pre-application documents with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Nov. 15, in advance of the Dec. 31 deadline.

The license is set to expire Dec. 31, 2018, and there is a mandatory five-year process to renew.

Bucks Creek Hydroelectric Project, FERC No. 619, includes Bucks Lake, Lower Bucks Lake, Grizzly Forebay and their respective dams; Three Lakes, the Milk Ranch Conduit and their respective diversions; and the Grizzly and Bucks Creek powerhouses.

The Nov. 15 filing begins a five-year process that includes:

Year 1: study plan.

Years 2 – 3: studies completed.

Years 4 – 5: state and federal entities complete environmental reviews.

Year 5-plus: license issued with new conditions.

Grizzly Powerhouse is much newer — completed in 1993 — and it is owned by the city of Santa Clara.

PG&E and the city are co-licensees of the project and plan to file a draft proposed study plan in mid-December. The plan will be provided to resource agencies and other interested parties. It will also be available on the FERC website.

In January, the licensees plan to host a public meeting to outline relicensing issues.

Initial public meetings were held in Quincy and Sacramento last April.

During those meetings, Alan Soneda, PG&E’s project manager, presented an overview of the project’s scope and timeline.

Soneda said it is likely that PG&E will seek a 30-year license and that the goal is to “balance power values with nonpower issues.”

FERC requires several areas to be studied including geology, tribal resources, recreation, cultural and socio-economic issues, endangered species, wetlands, wildlife, fish and water.

Several Bucks Lake homeowners attended the April meetings and expressed the most concern about maintaining lake levels.

Soneda assured the homeowners that he didn’t expect any changes.

While the timeline is designed to be a five-year process, it can take longer, as has been the case with the Lake Almanor 2105 relicensing. That license expired in 2004.

To obtain more information about the Bucks Creek Project, visit the FERC website at ferc.gov and go to elibrary. Select search dockets and enter P-619.

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