Skagit River Project License (FERC Project No. 553)
The original 50-year Skagit project license expired in 1977 and the City of Seattle applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a new operating license.
Twelve entities, including federal and state agencies, Native American tribes, and environmental groups, filed motions with FERC to intervene in the relicensing procedure. Between 1977 and 1989 City Light worked collaboratively with the Interveners to carry out scientific research on the project's impacts. As a result, City Light built up a large environmental database. More is known about the ecology of the Skagit River than any other river in Washington State. This information provides the basis for a scientifically sound, effective mitigation program.
In 1991, following two years of negotiations, the Interveners and City Light reached a settlement on all environmental issues. These settlement agreements were submitted, as a package, to the FERC and were intended to fully mitigate the Skagit Project's environmental impacts. The agreements are recognized as a national model and have been called "the most comprehensive set of settlement agreements for the public good ever submitted to FERC." (Dean Shumway, Director, FERC Office of Hydropower Licensing, December 18, 1992). These settlement agreements were subsequently incorporated into the new operating license issued in 1995
The Settlement Agreements describe the mitigation jointly agreed upon by City Light and the Interveners. Actions taken to implement the settlement agreement are summarized below:
- Implemented the Anadromous Fish Flow Plan, which requires City Light to adjust flows through the dams on a seasonal, monthly, and daily basis to supply the right amount of water for spawning, as well as incubation and protection of juvenile salmon.
- Implemented the Non-flow Anadromous Fish Plan, which includes programs for research and off-channel habitat development and improvements. City Light developed five locations as off-channel habitat for juvenile chum and coho and currently conducts, sponsors, or co-sponsors research on salmon.
- Fisheries Settlement Agreement 1991 & Appendices
- Revised Fisheries Settlement Agreement
- Identified and purchased lands for wildlife habitat. City Light purchased and now manages over 10,000 acres of wildlife habitat land in the Skagit and Nooksack river drainages. Management activities on these lands have included reconnecting a slough, closing roads, and removing an old bridge.
- Provides annual funding for wildlife research and monitoring by the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service.
- Provides annual wildlife program funding to North Cascades Institute.
- Converted a historic building into a laboratory for research on wildlife and vegetation.
- Provides annual grant funding for research on wildlife and vegetation in the North Cascades ecosystem.
- Wildlife Settlement Agreement
Recreation and Aesthetics
- Constructed an environmental learning center (ELC) on Diablo Lake.
- Provided funds to the National Park Service to build new trails and outdoor learning areas for the ELC. Landscaping was accomplished by volunteers in 2006 using native plants propagated with City Light funding.
- Set up the Educational Endowment Fund, now being overseen by the Seattle Foundation, to fund educational programs at the ELC.
- Provides funding to build, renovate, and maintain recreational trails, campgrounds, and boat launches on lands managed by the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service.
- Enhanced the landscaping in Newhalem and Diablo to improve the visual appeal of these towns and showcase the historic buildings.
- Improved right-of-way vegetation management to reduce the contrast with the surrounding landscape and increase species diversity.
- Recreation & Aesthetics Settlement Agreement
Provides funding to the National Park Service to stabilize and revegetate eroded sites along Ross Lake and project roads to reduce sedimentation, protect salmon spawning habitat, and improve aesthetics.
Developed a facility to propagate native plants for use in landscaping, ROW improvements, and erosion control.
- Erosion Control Settlement Agreement
Protects historic buildings and facilities listed under the National Historic Preservation Act in the towns of Newhalem and Diablo.
Documents, protects, and mitigates impacts to archaeological resources in the project area.
Prepared an Archeological Resources Mitigation and Management Plan for the Ross Lake Archeological District.
- Cultural Resources Settlement Agreement
Traditional Cultural Properties
- Provided funding to the Upper Skagit Tribe, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Sauk-Suiattle Tribe and Nlaka'pamux Nation to support cultural activities.
- Provided funding to the tribes and nation to inventory and document traditional cultural properties.