FERC Issues DEIS for the Bucks Creek Hydropower Project

FERC Issues DEIS for the Bucks Creek Hydropower Project

In June, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released a draft Environmental Impact Statement to relicense the “Pacific Gas and Electric Company and City of Santa Clara, California’s (co-applicants) existing 84.8-megawatt Bucks Creek Hydropower Project No. 619.” The application for the project was filed in December 2016, which is ” located on Bucks, Grizzly,
and Milk Ranch Creeks in Plumas County, California. The project consists of the Bucks Creek and Grizzly Developments and, as proposed, would occupy 1,316 acres of federal lands within the Plumas National Forest.” They also filed a supplemental application in May 2018.

“The project consists of Bucks Creek Powerhouse; Grizzly Powerhouse, and the Grizzly Tap Transmission Line; water storage, diversion, and conveyance facilities associated with the two powerhouses, including Bucks Lake, Lower Bucks Lake, Three Lakes, Grizzly Forebay; and other associated facilities.” They do not plan to “add capacity or make any major modifications to the project or its operations under the new license.” The only modifications they have proposed to make are:

· “Install a Howell-Bunger valve at the end of the existing low-level outlet of Bucks Lake Dam to release the minimum instream flows into Bucks Creek.
· “Enhance existing recreation facilities, including campgrounds, picnic areas, boat launches, day use areas, and trails, and construct a Bucks Lake Shoreline Trail and new facilities at the Bucks Lake Boat-In Campground.”

They also proposed to make changes to the already existing boundary that will: “(1) include existing facilities and roads that are necessary for current and future operation and maintenance (O&M) activities, and recreation development; (2) remove land and roads currently within the
boundary that are not required for project purposes; and (3) reduce the shoreline buffer along project impoundments where project infrastructure and recreation facilities are in proximity to the shoreline.”

FERC found four primary issues with relicensing the Bucks Creek Hydropower Project: “(1) the protection of aquatic habitats including stream flows, water temperature, and recruitment of spawning gravel and woody material; (2) the protection of special-status wildlife species from
human disturbance; (3) the need for additional recreational opportunities and facilities in the project area; and (4) the protection of cultural resources.”

FERC recommended the staff alternative in the draft EIS, “which consists of measures included in the co-applicants’ proposal, as well as most of the mandatory conditions and recommendations made by state and federal agencies and non-governmental organizations, and some additional measures developed by the staff.”

The draft EIS consists of the views of “governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations, affected Indian tribes, the public, the license applicant, and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission) staff.” It has FERC’s evaluations of the proposal as well as some alternatives.