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5. Protected areas and hydroelectric development and licensing

Sub-strategy

Protect fish and wildlife from the adverse effects of future hydroelectric project construction and operations. As part of this strategy, the Council supports protecting streams and wildlife habitats from any hydroelectric development where the Council believes such development would have unacceptable risks to fish and wildlife.

Rationale

Beginning in 1983, the Council directed extensive studies of existing habitat and has analyzed alternative means of protection. In 1988, the Council concluded that: 1) the studies had identified fish and wildlife resources of critical importance to the region; 2) mitigation techniques cannot assure that all adverse impacts of hydroelectric development on these fish and wildlife populations will be mitigated; 3) even small hydroelectric projects may have unacceptable individual and cumulative impacts on these resources; and 4) protecting these resources and habitats from hydroelectric development is consistent with an adequate, efficient, economical, and reliable power supply. The Council, relying on these studies, designated 44,000 miles of river reaches as “protected areas,” where the Council believes hydroelectric development would have unacceptable risks of loss to fish and wildlife species of concern, their productive capacity, or their habitat.

Most of the river reaches designated as protected areas are in the Columbia River Basin. But the designations also include river reaches outside the Columbia River Basin but within the service territory of Bonneville and thus within the scope of the Pacific Northwest’s regional power system. The designations are intended as an expression of the Council’s authority under the Northwest Power Act to protect, mitigate and enhance fish and wildlife in the Columbia River Basin from the adverse effects of the development and operation of the region’s existing hydroelectric facilities and as an expression of the Council’s obligations under the same Act to give due consideration in the Council’s regional power plans to the effects of new energy resources (including new hydroelectric resources) on fish and wildlife resources and environmental quality and to internalize the environmental costs and benefits of such new resources to the greatest degree possible in deciding whether to recommend their addition to the region’s power supply.

The complete provisions of this sub-strategy are in Appendix F. What follows below is a summary of key elements of the sub-strategy.

a) Future Hydroelectric Development and Licensing

This sub-strategy includes a set of fish and wildlife protection standards for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Bonneville, and other agencies to apply to the development and licensing of hydroelectric facilities outside of protected areas

b) Protected areas

Protected areas list: River reaches to be protected are those reaches or portions of reaches listed on the “protected areas list” adopted by the Council on August 10, 1988, and subsequently amended. For each river reach listed on the Protected Areas List, the fish and wildlife to be protected are those on the list. The Council will also supply a list of the Protected Areas to any party free of charge.

c) Exemptions, amendments and exceptions:

Hydroelectric development at certain existing structures is exempt from the protected areas provisions. The program contains procedures and criteria for substantive amendments and technical corrections to protected areas designations. The program also contains a process and criteria for an exception to the protected areas provisions for projects that will have exceptional benefits for fish and wildlife.

d) General implementation measures

The Council expects the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, in the exercise of its licensing authority under the Federal Power Act, to take the Council’s hydroelectric development standards and protected areas designations into account to the fullest extent practicable. This includes a Council determination whether favorable or unfavorable on a petition for an exception to a protected area designation for a project proposed to have exceptional benefits for fish and wildlife. The Commission should implement the Council’s decision in the Commission’s licensing and exemption proceedings unless the Commission’s legal responsibilities require otherwise. The Council also expects Bonneville not to acquire power from or provide transmission support for a new hydroelectric development in a manner inconsistent with the Council’s designation of protected areas.


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