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SPOKANE, Wash. – Jan. 10, 2007: A Department of Interior judge has issued his ruling regarding Avista’s challenge of facts that were used to formulate proposed mandatory conditions for relicensing the Post Falls Hydroelectric Project. Avista anticipates that these factual findings set the stage for reasonable resolution of issues remaining in the relicensing process.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), which is charged with protecting project-related resources on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation and has authority to set conditions for Avista’s license, is now expected use the findings to formulate final mandatory conditions for the operation of Avista’s Post Falls Project.
The Judge’s ruling supports, to a significant degree, the facts as described by Avista regarding Project impacts on Coeur d’Alene Lake and the reservation.
“We believe the order, overall, demonstrates a careful consideration of the factual issues and reflects the record developed during our collaborative relicensing process,” said Bruce Howard, Spokane River relicensing manager. “We expect this will lead to significant changes in the mandatory conditions and, we hope, a constructive resolution of the related concerns with the BIA and Tribe.”
While the ruling includes findings that favor both BIA and Avista, several major areas are very encouraging for continued operation of the project under reasonable conditions.
Some encouraging elements for Avista include:
- The Judge rejected the claim of BIA that maintaining the summer level of Coeur d’Alene Lake is harming native fish.
- The Judge rejected the claim of BIA that maintaining the summer lake level increases the levels of metals in the Lake.
- The Judge rejected the claim of BIA that Avista is responsible for all the erosion on the reservation. Instead, the Judge ruled that the project is responsible for about 50 percent of the erosion on the lower tributaries to the lake, and 30 percent of the erosion on the lake itself.
- The Judge ruled that the cultural resource survey conducted by Avista was adequate, undermining the BIA claims that the survey was lacking and should be redone.
Elements of the decision that support the position of BIA include:
- The Judge agreed with BIA that the project has had an effect on cultural resources because of an increase in illegal collecting of artifacts.
- The ruling states that the project has caused a net loss of wetlands on the reservation and has impaired functioning of those wetlands.
- The Judge agreed with Avista’s argument that it is not feasible to eradicate Eurasian water milfoil in Coeur d’Alene Lake. However the ruling acknowledges that aquatic weed growth has increased due to the project and that Avista is responsible for helping to control it in limited areas.
The broader relicensing process continues under the jurisdiction of FERC. The agency recently issued a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for public review and comment until March 6, 2007. The DEIS included FERC’s review of the preliminary mandatory conditions. This document and the ALJ ruling are available on Avista’s relicensing website. http://www.avistautilities.com/resources/relicensing/spokane/
The DEIS and the ALJ rulings set the stage for comments to FERC, as well as the preparation of final terms and conditions by BIA and other agencies, which would be due near the beginning of May. After that time, FERC would issue a final EIS, and ultimately, license orders on the Post Falls Project and Spokane River Project. Avista’s current FERC license expires in August 2007.
Avista Corp. is an energy company involved in the production, transmission and distribution of energy as well as other energy-related businesses. Avista Utilities is a company operating division that provides service to 341,000 electric and 298,000 natural gas customers in three Western states. Avista’s non-regulated subsidiaries include Advantage IQ and Avista Energy. Avista Corp.’s stock is traded under the ticker symbol “AVA.” For more information about Avista, please visit www.avistacorp.com.
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