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Environmental Impact Statements (EISs)

Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Baker River Hydroelectric Project No. 2150-033
Issued: September 8, 2006

Commission staff prepared a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Puget Sound Energy's (Puget) 170.03-megawatt (proposed 200.03-megawatt) Baker River Hydroelectric Project located on the Baker River in Whatcom and Skagit Counties, Washington. The project occupies 5,207 acres of lands within the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

Puget used the Commission's alternative licensing procedures and filed an applicant prepared Preliminary Draft Environmental Assessment (PDEA) with the application for a new license. The PDEA evaluated the effects of continued project operation as proposed in Puget's new license application.
On November 30, 2004, Puget filed a Settlement Agreement signed by Puget, 11 governmental agencies, three tribes, eight non-governmental organizations, and one citizen representative (the Settlement Parties). Puget then filed an amended license application and revised PDEA on January 31, 2005, which reflects the Settlement Agreement.

The Settlement Agreement contains 50 proposed license articles that Puget and the Settlement Parties recommend the Commission incorporate into the new license. The proposed articles describe how Puget would operate the project and Puget's responsibilities for certain protection, mitigation, and enhancement measures including measures related to: geology and soils, water quantity and quality, aquatic resources, terrestrial resources, threatened and endangered species, cultural resources, recreation, aesthetics, and land uses.

Commission staff's final EIS analyzes the effects of the No-Action Alternative, Proposed Action (Settlement Agreement), and a Staff Alternative. Commission staff (lead agency) prepared this final EIS in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (cooperating agency) pursuant to 40 CFR 1501.6 of the National Environmental Policy Act.

Staff Alternative

After evaluating the Proposed Action, and recommendations from resource agencies, non-governmental organizations, and other interested parties, Commission staff considered what, if any, additional protection, mitigation, or enhancement measures would be necessary or appropriate with continued operation of the project. The Staff Alternative consists of the Proposed Action with these additional or modified environmental measures, which include agency recommendations made pursuant to sections 18, 4(e), and 10(j), or modifications thereof, as noted. Additional staff recommended measures include: (1) a flow continuation study to determine the need for valves, other equipment, and operating procedures at the Lower Baker dam to maintain minimum flows during project outages and a plan to install such facilities if warranted, and (2) access, records, and notification procedures to help resource agencies and tribes remain informed about the construction and operation of fish protection measures at the project. The staff alternative also does not include the following proposed measures: (1) a water safety plan, (2) law enforcement, (3) an aquatic riparian habitat protection, restoration, and enhancement plan, (4) various contingency funds, and (5) certain adaptive management provisions.


We choose the Staff Alternative as preferred because: (1) the project would provide a significant (722,019 megawatt-hours) and dependable source of electrical energy for the region, (2) the project would avoid the need for an equivalent amount of fossil-fueled electric generation and capacity, thereby continuing to help conserve these nonrenewable energy resources and reduce atmospheric pollution, and (3) measures recommended by staff would adequately protect and enhance environmental resources and mitigate the impacts of the project.