The Commission has yet to make its final decision and the FEIS will form part of the record of documents used in the decision-making process. The California Energy Commission (CEC) has been a strong opponent of relicensing the project, calling instead for removal of the dams and earlier this month lobbied state public utilities commissions (PUCs) on its case.

FERC said the proposal put forward by its staff in the FEIS incorporates most of the power utility’s planned improvements at four sites – Iron Gate, Copco Nos 1 & 2, and JC Boyle – with amendments to some. The Klamath scheme has 169MW of installed capacity and on average generates more than 716,000 MWh of electricity annually, and the stretch of river that was assessed runs from Klamath falls, Oregon, to Yreka, California.

It also attaches 25 additional required measures, such as implementation of: an integrated fish passage and disease management programme; and, an adaptive spawning gravel augmentation programme in the JC Boyle bypassed reach and downstream of Iron Gate dam.

The verdict on the relicensing application comes after FERC analysed the environmental and economic effects of six main: no change; the PacifiCorp proposals; FERC staff proposals alone and also with conditions from the Dept of Interior and Commerce; retirement of Iron gate and Copco No 1 plus changes at the other sites; retirement of all four dams with further environmental improvement measures.

FERC said the principal issues studied in the EIS included:

– the influence of project operations on water quality, including downstream of Iron gate dam;

– approaches to facilitate the restoration of native anadromous fish within and upstream of the project;

– the influence of peaking operations at JC Boyle development on downstream biota and whitewater boating opportunities;

– the effect of project operations on archaeological and historic sites and resources of concern to various tribes;

– the effects of decommissioning East Side and West Side developments and removing Keno development from the project;

– decommissioning other project developments.

PacifiCorp filed an application for a new licence for the Klamath scheme in 2004, and the current licence expired in March last year. At present, the scheme – which consists of eight developments, seven of which are on the Klamath river – is operating under an annual licence. PacifiCorp has proposed decommissioning the upstream-most developments of East Side and West Side and removal of the Keno development. The utility has planned to invest approximately US$300M to install fish ladders.

CEC has long opposed the relicensing application. In March, it claimed that removing the Klamath dams but improving fish passage at Keno was the best economic option for fisheries protection. It refuted the findings of a study undertaken by a consultant for PacifCorp, which said there were flaws in the CEC analysis. However, in reviewing its analysis the CEC hit back by saying that reworking the study only made its case stronger.

Earlier this month, CEC claimed to the PUCs that the relicensing process presented a ‘once-in-a-generation’ opportunity to restore the river habitat.