Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases:
Washington: Cushman Hydroelectric Project (Tacoma)
October 1998 Developments
In September, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) responded to the Council's comments on the Cushman Hydroelectric Project, referencing the July 30, 1998, project license as explanation of its final decision. The licensing order adopted some, but not all of the Council's recommendations for the mitigation of project effects on historic properties.
FERC's license includes a series of articles requiring the City of Tacoma (the licensee) to revise its Cultural Resources Management Plan (CRMP) to address recommendations for the evaluation and protection of archeological properties. The licensee is also required to increase minimum flow in the North Fork Skokomish River and to install and operate fish passage downstream and upstream from the project. This falls short, however, of fully adopting the recommendations of the Departments of Interior and Commerce (supported by the Council) with regard to the restoration of anadromous fish resources in the North Fork, and thus raises questions about the viability of the adopted measures.
The Department of the Interior, National Marine Fisheries Service, the Skokomish Tribe, the American Public Power Association, the Edison Electric Institute, and the National Hydropower Association have all requested rehearing on the licensing decision. FERC's decision on those motions is pending. The City of Tacoma has indicated that it may not accept the license and has filed a motion requesting that the original license remain in effect, pending rehearing and judicial review.
FERC terminated consultation with the Council on the Cushman project in February. On April 7, 1998, the Council issued final comments. The license in question is for the City of Tacoma to operate the previously unlicenced Cushman No. 1 and No. 2 Hydroelectric Power Plants. The Cushman Project, which was constructed in the 1920s on the North Fork Skokomish River, comprises two National Register Historic Districts. Other historic properties that may be affected include archeological properties and three identified traditional cultural property districts.
In the Council's comment letter, signed by Chairman Slater, the Council opined that several highly important properties of traditional cultural value to the Skokomish Indian Tribe have been affected, and will continue to be affected by operation of the Cushman Hydroelectric Project. The project extends partially onto reservation lands, and the Tribe was concerned throughout the licensing process about the project-induced reduction of water flow in the North Fork. The Tribe and Federal resource agencies assert that the reservation and the traditional lifeways of the Skokomish have been severely impacted by alteration of the river and operation of the project.
The Chairman's letter urged FERC to adopt a licensing alternative consistent with the recommendations, conditions, and prescriptions of the Departments of Interior and Commerce for substantial restoration of pre-project water flows and the inclusion of hatchery support and fish passage for the restoration of anadromous fish resources above the two project dams.
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