Dammed if You Do, Damned if You Don’t: FERC’s Tribal Consultation Requirement and the Hydropower Re-licensing at Post Falls Dam

Christy McCann, Dammed if You Do, Damned if You Don’t: FERC’s Tribal Consultation Requirement and the Hydropower Re-licensing at Post Falls Dam, 41 Gonz. L. Rev. 411 (2006).

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Avista Utilities owns and operates the Post Falls Dam on the Spokane River, with a generating capacity of 14.75 megawatts.  Diverting more or less water through the dam translates directly into money for Avista and its customers. One recent proposal calling for an additional forty-six cubic feet per second of water “to be released from the Post Falls Dam during summer weekend afternoons” translates directly to less water available to generate electricity.  “Avista would lose about $ 1,660 each year in electricity at Post Falls Dam, $ 33,000 at the Upper Falls Dam and $ 75,000 at the Monroe Street Dam… . The costs would be passed on to ratepayers.”  Five hydroelectric projects on the Spokane River are owned and operated by Avista, the uppermost being the Post Falls Dam.

Indian summer on Lake Coeur d’Alene, and dry docks are empty, waiting for water. The days are warm; the lake is inviting. Land owners, motor-boaters, business owners, and developers would like their summer fun extended into fall. It wouldn’t be hard to do – just delay the draw-down a mere two weeks keeping the lake level high into September. Two weeks longer, before docks are high and dry, and the lake transforms from the center of activity and commerce into a scenic, but useless, patch of blue in the background.

A kayaker glides back and forth across a glassy wave, suspended in place by the competing forces of current and gravity. Just downstream another paddler in a bright plastic boat balances on edge and turns cartwheels, acrobatically swapping end after end in a frothy foam pile formed behind a submerged rock in the river. These boaters, and others in the Spokane area, realize that they have a whitewater gem in their backyard that, with enough water, would turn the Spokane River into a world-class playground for kayakers…. Read More

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