Chelan PUD begins the long road to relicensing Rock Island Hydroelectric Project

by Rachel Hansen | Oct 17, 2022

Chelan PUD is getting a head start on a multi-year process to relicense Rock Island Hydroelectric Project, the second largest power producer of Chelan PUD’s three dams. (audio at 01:04:00 of the board meeting recording) The existing 40-year license expires at the end of 2028.

“This is a monumental undertaking,” said Hydro Licensing Manager Janel Ulrich. “The formal licensing process begins in late 2023. Conducting voluntary early engagement prior to that provides more time to study and discuss resources with our stakeholders.”

The license is a 30-50 year permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that authorizes Chelan PUD to continue generating power. The relicensing process requires Chelan PUD and FERC to look at an array of public resources related to the Rock Island Dam, including: fish and wildlife, power generation, flood control, cultural resources, recreation, and other aspects of environmental quality.

The new license will require the PUD to invest in protection, mitigation and enhancement measures. FERC determines what those measures should be based on scientific studies and historical information. The studies slated for 2021 through 2023 include: river bottom elevations, water elevations under different conditions, water quality, recreation (inventory, use, and needs), aquatic species monitoring (pacific lamprey, bull trout, white sturgeon, resident fish, and plants), and upland plant surveys for rare, threatened, or endangered species.

In late 2021, Chelan PUD organized several technical working groups including: Fish & Aquatics, Recreation & Land Use, and Wildlife & Botanical. These groups represent more than two dozen entities, including federal and state agencies, Native American tribes, local governments, non-governmental organizations, and interested citizens.

In addition to modernizing both powerhouses and the spillway, Chelan PUD is also planning some early recreation investments to apply toward the next Rock Island license, including supporting a portion of a waterfront park in the Malaga area. The park is a collaboration with Chelan County and Malaga-Colockum Community Council. An early design will be presented on Nov. 7 in a joint commission meeting with Chelan County.

The next license will be Rock Island’s third. Chelan PUD must file a pre-application document and notice of intent to relicense between July 1, 2023 and Dec. 31, 2023. The final license application is due Dec. 31, 2026. A new license may be issued as soon as January 2029.

In other business, commissioners:

• Reviewed a summary of public feedback regarding improvements to Riverfront Park in Wenatchee (01:45:00)

• Reviewed an outreach plan regarding a maintenance and fire-hardening project on a transmission line from Peshastin to Coles Corner. (about 00:45:00)


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Sidebar: About Rock Island Dam

Rock Island Dam, located about 12 miles downstream from the City of Wenatchee, has two powerhouses with 18 generators, which have a nameplate capacity of about 629 megawatts. That’s enough electricity to power 250,000 homes. With power initially generated in 1933, the Rock Island hydroelectric project was the first to span the Columbia River.

Beyond the two powerhouses and dam, the project area includes the shoreline along the approximately 21-mile-long reservoir, five recreational sites, and the 960 acres upland Home Water Wildlife Preserve.

Chelan PUD committed to a 50-year Habitat Conservation Plan to ensure that Rock Island and Rocky Reach hydro projects have no net impact on mid-Columbia salmon and steelhead runs. That commitment is accomplished by meeting robust juvenile and adult survival standards, producing hatchery fish, and providing funding for habitat restoration projects.

Media contacts

Rachel Hansen: (509) 661-4320
Neil Neroutsos: (509) 661-8291

Outages or Emergencies

Visit our Safety and Outage Center for information, or to report an outage, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, call 1-877-PUD-8123.


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