(Washington, D.C.) Congresswoman Cathy McMorris testified today at the House Resources Water and Power Subcommittee Hearing on how the Endangered Species Act has impacted relicensing projects in the 5th district. She specifically spoke about the effect it has had on the hydroelectric relicensing project at Box Canyon.
“We need to protect citizens of Pend Oreille and promote economic growth for the region,” said McMorris. “Pend Oreille County is dependent on low energy rates.”
The Box Canyon Project is located on the Pend Oreille River and generates up to 60 megawatts of power a year. The Public Utilities District applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to relicense the project in 2000, and that process is still underway. The Federal government has recommended that this small project invest more than $70 million for fish ladders and habitat restoration for Bull Trout, which scientific research has shown will little to no effect.
“While the environmental impacts associated with this small project are modest, the impact on the economy is great. The largest employer in Pend Oreille County relies on the power generated by Box Canyon, but because the environmental requirements presently under consideration could render this project uneconomical, the people of the county face not only the prospect of doubling rates, but job losses as well.”
In 2001, FERC reviewed 228 hydro licensing projects and ascertained that they average cost of Protection, Mitigation, and Enhancement (PM&E’s) dollars nationwide is $212 per kilowatt. The Box Canyon Project’s PM&E’s are $3,100 per kilowatt, 14 times the national average.
“A responsibility does exist to care for the impacted resource. However, when unjustifiable science is used as a pretext to impose huge costs for questionable benefits, particularly when such costs are squarely on the backs of ratepayers in rural America, we must ask these tough questions related to the Act’s implementation.”