In a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) filing dated Sept. 12, 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urges FERC to identify all adverse impacts of decommissioning Project 606 (the Kilarc-Cow Creek Hydroelectric Project) and explore potential mitigation measures, even if those lie “outside the jurisdiction of the lead agency,” because “this will serve to alert agencies or officials who can implement these extra measures. In this comment the EPA is referring to the devastating effect the decommissioning of the Cow Creek hydro plant will have upon the Abbott Ditch Users (ADU) because it will dry up Hooten Gulch from which they currently divert water for domestic and agricultural use.
The EPA had intended to submit this comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) last year, but its comments (sent by U.S. Mail) were not received by the FERC, and the EPA didn’t realize it until after the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was released in August of 2011. They submitted their comments again, and CarLisa Linton-Peters, who was in charge of the environmental studies for the FERC, said her staff would “attempt to address” the EPA’s concerns in the Order, because the FEIS could not be changed.
In the FEIS, the FERC and PG&E state that replacement of lost flows to Hooten Gulch or construction of an alternative point of diversion is “outside the scoping of this proceeding because the Federal Power Act reserves to the States jurisdiction over matters pertaining to water rights” (p. 61). The EPA takes them to task for this. “The EPA recommends the FEIS further explore and describe potential mitigation measures to address impacts from the reduced ability to divert water from Hooten Gulch. For instance, describe opportunities to consolidate diversions, implement water conservation measures (ditch lining, improved irrigation efficiency), provide for a new diversion on South Cow Creek below the confluence with Hooten Gulch in accordance with the state court adjudication, or develop other water supply sources (e.g. groundwater). Consider working in partnership with PG&E, ADU, Tetrick Ranch, Shasta County, and other appropriate entities to evaluate and implement water supply options for Tetrick Ranch and ADU.”
In addition, on Oct. 14, 2011 the Tetrick Ranch’s lawyer Frances E. Francis filed a lengthy comment on the FEIS addressed to the Commission itself in which she says, “The FEIS does not support the recommendations made by Staff, ignores certain key facts, and does not provide reasoned analysis as to how it arrived at key conclusions. As such, were the Commission to base its decision in this matter on this FEIS and the Staff recommendation included in the FEIS, its decision would be arbitrary and capricious and would not comport with the Commission’s statutory obligations.”
As an example of lack of reasoned analysis, Ms. Francis cites the following conclusion:
“The overall benefits of the Proposed Action, [decommissioning all the facilities] with staff additional recommendations, would be worth the cost of the proposed action and staff recommended environmental measures and on balance would outweigh the consequences of the other alternatives analyzed in the FEIS.” And yet, as she points out, “the information in the FEIS indicates that the net impacts of the proposed action are overwhelmingly negative.”
The only two benefits actually cited in the FEIS are 1) a increased quantity of water for resident fish and 2) gravel from behind the diversion dams moving downstream to create more favorable conditions for fish. The adverse effects identified in the FEIS, however, are numerous and severe. Among those cited are: 1) loss of a local park and recreational fishing at Kilarc; 2) loss of wildlife at Kilarc and in Hooten Gulch; 3) loss of the only close-in, major water supply to fight forest fires and protect homes and businesses in a mountainous community; 4) loss of long-standing water delivery system for farmers, ranches, and households with no compensation or alternative delivery system; 5) cost of $14.5 million to PG&E’s rate customers to dismantle P-606, plus additional annual cost of $3million for replacement power; 6) loss of local tax revenue; and 7) potential loss of groundwater.
Ms. Francis concludes, “At this point, perhaps the most useful functions of the FEIS are to highlight Staff’s methodological errors and to allow time to correct them; to demonstrate the need
for the Commission to exercise its authority to re-examine the now six-years-old Agreement between PG&E and the resource agencies that underlies PG&E’s proposed surrender and decommissioning; and to promptly direct its Staff to explore not only a better–informed result but also a result that would mitigate the terrible impacts now facing a small community if the Commission takes the action recommended in the FEIS.”