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Environmental Impact Statements (EISs)

Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Oroville Facilities (P-2100-052)
Issued: May 18, 2007

Commission staff prepared a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for California Department of Water Resource's (DWR's) Oroville Facilities. The 762-megawatt project is located on the Feather River in Butte County, California and occupies 1,620 acres of federal lands managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service within the Plumas and Lassen National Forests and 4,620 acres managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

DWR followed the alternative licensing process to prepare their application and filed a license application with the Commission for a major new license on January 26, 2005. The 2005 application included a preliminary draft environmental assessment.

DWR's license application outlined its proposal to continue operating the Oroville Facilities in accordance with certain existing and interim operational and environmental measures. DWR filed a comprehensive Offer of Settlement (Settlement Agreement) with the Commission on March 24, 2006, which replaces the Proposed Action outlined in the license application. The terms of the Settlement Agreement include a wide range of measures described in Proposed Articles A100 through A135. The agreement also includes a set of measures that DWR proposes to implement outside of the project license.

Under the Proposed Action, DWR would implement six programs designed to enhance habitats for coldwater fisheries to benefit the threatened and endangered Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon and Central Valley steelhead in the Feather River, and warmwater fisheries in Lake Oroville. The Proposed Action includes a comprehensive program to monitor water quality and bacteria levels at project waters for the benefit of both fisheries and visitors using the project's swimming areas. Wildlife would be enhanced through proposed measures to manage the Oroville Wildlife Area. The substantial recreational opportunities of the Oroville Facilities would be enhanced and expanded through the implementation of the Recreation Management Plan, which includes upgrades to existing facilities, construction of new facilities, and comprehensive monitoring of recreation use over the term of any license issued for the project. Finally, the Proposed Action includes the implementation of a Historic Properties Management Plan and specific measures to address conflicts between recreation use and the protection of cultural resources.

Staff has revised some of the applicant-proposed project-related environmental measures to increase monitoring activities or accelerate the implementation schedules. We recommend including measures that would address concerns and recommendations made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Butte County, Native American Tribes, and visitors who use the extensive project-related trails.

Overall, the measures proposed by DWR under the terms of the Settlement Agreement, along with additional staff-recommended and revised measures, would protect and enhance existing water use, water quality, fish and wildlife, land use, aesthetics, recreational, and cultural resources. In addition, the project would continue to provide a large portion of the electricity needed to pump water through the California State Water Project at a lower cost than potential replacement power sources.